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).