NZR looking to reinvigorate Mitre 10 Cup

Richard Kinley
Richard Kinley
Change is in the air for the Mitre 10 Cup and it is not hard to see why.

But a suggestion it will move to a purely amateur competition has been hosed down.

The flagship provincial competition has been limping along over the past couple of years with crowds way down, flagging interest and the best players not turning out for their province.

It has been accepted by the rugby public that the days of All Blacks turning out week in, week out for their provinces are over.

More worrying perhaps is players who are preferring to go and play in Japan than turn out for their province.

Players such as Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin and Matt Todd played in Japan last year rather than stay in New Zealand and play for their provinces.

New Zealand Rugby is looking at ways to try to reinvigorate the competition.

A workshop was held in Wellington earlier this month with provincial bosses and there will be further discussion next month.

Change may have to wait until the new broadcasting deal is introduced in 2021 but Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley said there were plenty of ideas being thrown around.

There are Premiership and Championship pools in the Mitre 10 Cup at the moment but Kinley said there was a suggestion that be eliminated so teams could have a chance of wining the top prize at the start of the season.

Money was tight in the game and funding pressures were present.

There had been talk the Mitre 10 Cup would go to an amateur format, as the unions struggled to fund players and travel. Most unions rely heavily on funds from the national union to pay the costs of their top provincial side.

The Taranaki union has just recorded a loss of more than $800,000 for last year.

Kinley said there was no suggestion the national union was looking to not pay players at provincial level.

Payments had spiralled out of the control a few years ago but were better managed now.

The player drain overseas was bad enough now but if players were no longer paid at Mitre 10 Cup level, they would head overseas in large numbers.

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