Players' Association threatens to split with NZ Rugby

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
The New Zealand Rugby Players Association (RPA) has threatened it will walk away from NZ Rugby (NZR) if governance review reforms are not voted on at the end of this month.

In a letter released today, the RPA has stated that it intends to form a new body, which will be established to govern the professional game if a proposal put forward by a group of provincial unions is approved instead.

NZR is holding a special general meeting on 30 May to vote in one of two proposals, the other of which (Proposal One) is backed by the RPA and recommends adopting the findings of last year's Pilkington Report in full.

"Should Proposal Two [put forward by some provincial unions] be adopted, or the status quo prevail, the professional players will no longer pass to NZRU, via a collective employment agreement, the right to govern the professional game," the NZRPA letter said.

"A new body will be established to govern the professional game in New Zealand. Directors appointed by the professional players will represent the players on this body and on other bodies such as NZRC [New Zealand Rugby Commercial]. NZRU will make appointments to this new body, as will, likely NZRC. Super Rugby Clubs will be represented and tangata whenua will of course be inherent.

"This new body, for example called 'The Professional Rugby Tribunal', will govern, in some sort of partnership with NZRU, the sale of media rights, the contracting of sponsors, the revenue share model, international and national competitions, the high-performance programmes and development pathways and any other activity that impacts the careers, safety, remuneration, workplace and development of professional players.

"NZRU will continue to govern alone the community and amateur game including provincial rugby, club rugby and other non-professional rugby activities."

This is by far the strongest move yet by the RPA head Rob Nichol in an ongoing stoush, which originated when they commissioned the Pilkington Report last year. It subsequently found that NZ Rugby's governance was not fit for purpose, recommending a new appointment process and makeup of the board, as well as many other changes.

In March, NZR chair Dame Patsy Reddy threatened to resign if provinces continued to push alternative proposals that seek to maintain at least three NZR board members with at least two years' experience on a provincial board.

An independent review of the two proposals was released last week, which was conducted to consider whether each proposal aligns to the principles and recommendations of the Pilkington Report.

Proposal two was found to be inconsistent in several areas, mainly focused around the makeup of the NZR board and how the members are appointed.