Two New Zealand Rugby Clubs Will Have New Owners Next Year
The New Zealand Rugby Union said that Super Rugby clubs Crusaders and Hurricanes "will have new operators next year," according to the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. A mix of provincial unions and private investors, "will manage the two teams after expressions of interest were sought for the licences a year ago." The Hurricanes will be controlled by a Wellington group including Wellington Rugby, former Hurricanes Directors Paul Collins and Liz Dawson, and businessman Gareth Morgan and his Welnix group, the owners of the Wellington Phoenix football team. The NZRU and a Crusaders region consortium "have agreed in principle a licence arrangement to operate the Crusaders franchise and a final contract is expected to be signed within a month" (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 11/12). RADIO NEW ZEALAND reported the Hurricanes will be half-owned by the Wellington Rugby Football Union, a fourth-owned by former Brierley Investments boss Paul Collins and the remainder held by Welnix and Forsyth Morrison. The NZRU "will continue to contract the players and coaching staff" (RNZ, 11/12). FAIRFAX NZ NEWS wrote Morgan "proudly donned his Hurricanes jersey and hinted his sporting philanthropy could extend further to Wellington cricket and netball franchises." Morgan said that he was "not allowed to reveal how much Welnix was spending on the Hurricanes, but the 12.5% stake suggests a minimum of NZ$250,000 ($204,000) a year." Morgan said, "We're doing this for the Wellington region. These things are not massive earners and will never be massive earners." He added: "But it's really important to get them on a sustainable financial footing, so there's certainty amongst the players and the guys in the admin. To do that, we have to bulk up and share resources" (FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 11/13).
PROBLEMS AT THE TOP: The WALL STREET JOURNAL blog Deal Journal Australia's Lucy Craymer wrote New Zealand "may have the world's most-successful national rugby union team, the All Blacks, but its governing body is struggling to attract investment in the sport at a regional level." Last year, in addition to the Hurricanes, the NZRU announced it was selling the operating licenses for the Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs. New Zealand hosted, and won, the 2011 Rugby World Cup, "revitalizing support for the game Down Under." The teams "are all household names in rugby mad New Zealand, but with the country still emerging from a '09 recession, ticket sales are down as fans choose to watch matches on TV rather than pay relatively high prices to attend games." The country's small stadiums "also limit returns." Furthermore, the NZRU "has so far struggled" to make the Super Rugby competition "commercially viable" (WSJ, 11/12).