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Volume 7 No. 109

Leagues and Governing Bodies

New Zealand's top female rugby players "received a financial boost" with the announcement of a Black Ferns Professional Performance Programme in Wellington on Monday, according to the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. Under the terms of the program, 30 players will be employed by New Zealand Rugby on a Black Ferns contract "which includes a guaranteed retainer, assembly fees and other benefits." The top seven players will receive a retainer of NZ$20,000 ($14,600), with a further seven gaining NZ$17,500 ($12,770), another seven NZ$15,000 ($10,945) and the remaining nine players NZ$12,500 ($9,120) each. Additionally, players selected to the Black Ferns squad "will assemble for approximately 50 days per year for training camps and fixtures" for which they will be paid NZ$2,000 ($1,460) per week, adding another NZ$14,000-NZ$15,000 ($10,215-$10,945) to their potential earnings. A further NZ$100,000 ($72,970) will be made available "from a newly-created Black Ferns Legacy Fund and allocated across the 30-person squad." Members of the 2017 World Cup-winning Black Ferns squad will "also receive a one-off gross payment" of NZ$10,000 ($7,300) to become a Rugby World Cup legacy ambassador, "which will see them undertake an agreed amount of promotional activity to help promote and grow rugby" (NZ HERALD, 3/12). REUTERS' Ian Ransom reported although the deal "does little to bridge the huge gender pay gap with the All Blacks," it will give the country's amateur women "more hope of carving out a professional career in the rugby-mad country." New Zealand Rugby is "studying the feasibility of a professional league above the Farah Palmer Cup," the top amateur competition, which could "provide another pathway" to the int'l level "much as Super Rugby does for the All Blacks." A proposal will be put to the NZR board in June, with a "best-case scenario likely to push for the establishment of a pro league" in '19 (REUTERS, 3/12).

PART-TIME WORK: STUFF's Ben Strang wrote top Black Ferns will be earning roughly NZ$33 ($24) per hour "when they are training for or playing their sport." Those at the bottom end of the newly-negotiated professional performance program's tiered payment spectrum will be earning about $25.73 ($18.78) an hour. But those wages "come while committing an average of 19.8 hours per week to their code," including regional training, games and wider Black Ferns camps, all "while juggling existing work or study." While their Black Ferns paychecks "will take a bump for their efforts, it will require time off" from their regular day jobs. Financially, they will be "better off for it," but they will require "understanding employers." They "could always take" four weeks' leave to attend camps, but that still requires at least three weeks of unpaid leave. Black Sticks and Football Ferns players are "understood to be earning considerably less than the new Black Ferns contracts" (STUFF, 3/12).

The Australian Football League "threatened to cut ties with Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority drug testers if key documents in the Essendon supplements saga are made public," according to Michael Warner of the HERALD SUN. The "bombshell move," which could jeopardize millions of dollars in federal government funding for the league, was signaled in an affidavit filed by AFL Head of Integrity & Security Tony Keane in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal last Friday. The AFL joined ASADA in "fighting a Freedom of Information request made by a member of the public seeking access to doping control forms" signed by Essendon Bombers players between Aug. '11 and Sept. '12. Keane said, "If the application is successful ... I anticipate that the AFL would give serious consideration to engaging an alternative supplier for the conduct of the testing required in connection with the AFL’s anti-doping program." Banned Bomber Nathan Lovett-Murray "joined the stoush to have the doping control forms released." Lovett-Murray’s agent, Peter Jess, said that the forms were being protected to cover up “serious flaws” in the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s findings that the Essendon players had colluded by failing to "disclose the use of substances administered by sports scientist Stephen Dank" (HERALD SUN, 3/12).

Christian Horner
Photo: Getty images

Red Bull Formula 1 Team Principal Christian Horner said that it is "wrong" for Ferrari to hold F1 "ransom" by threatening to quit if it does not get its way with the '21 rules, according to PLANET F1. With F1’s current Concorde Agreement set to expire at the end of '20, "discussions are underway regarding the possible new rules." Last year, Liberty Media put forward its engine proposals, but it was "slapped down by the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes." Ferrari went as far as to state that if it is not happy with the new rules, it "will quit." Horner said that is "just wrong." He said, "I think that is a disrespect to [F1 Managing Dir] Ross Brawn, one of the most successful engineers in Formula 1. I think Liberty has a good reasoning and understanding of the subject. In the end, it’s their business and they have to decide what is good for the business" (PLANET F1, 3/12).

Players will from next year be allowed to take drops from knee height.

Golf's governing bodies confirmed a "radical overhaul" of the game's rules to be implemented in '19, according to Iain Carter of the BBC. The R&A and U.S. Golf Association "made alterations to proposals released for public consultation last year." But the "majority of the suggested changes, aimed at making golf easier to understand and faster to play, remain." Proposals such as allowing the flag to remain in the hole unattended while putting "come into force" on Jan. 1. There will also be no penalty for removing loose impediments from bunkers and the time allowed for searching for lost balls will be reduced from five minutes to three. Another aspect of the new rules philosophy is to "rely more heavily on player integrity." Officials said that a player's "reasonable judgment" when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, "even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong" (BBC, 3/12).