WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's dominance of world rugby will be shored up in coming years by a significant boost in player payments stemming in part from next year's lucrative British and Irish Lions tour.
New Zealand Rugby said the tour would contribute to a pool of NZ$176 million (100.20 million pounds) for "player payments, education and welfare initiatives" over a new three-year collective bargaining agreement from 2016-18, up from NZ$121m.
"In a highly competitive global market, we can't compete purely on money," NZR chief executive Steve Tew said in a statement.
"For us, the difference has to be in the environment we offer and the strength of our support for players to have the lifestyle they want."
The NZ$176 million represents 36.56 percent of "NZR player generated revenue", less NZ$15m to be set aside for allocation in future years.
The new CBA boosts player payments in Super Rugby, the domestic provincial competition and for the national men's and women's sevens teams.
New Zealand's already dominant Super Rugby teams will have more financial firepower to compete in the southern hemisphere competition, with annual contracting budgets raised to NZ$4.65m from NZ$4m and minimum retainers for individual players hiked to NZ$75,000 from NZ$70,000.
New Zealand Rugby had also boosted its fund of "top up retainer payments", used as sweeteners to discourage top players from heading overseas to pursue more lucrative contracts, from NZ$15.9m to $24.8m.
The special retainer payments have previously only been employed for established All Blacks but would be extended to include players in Super and provincial rugby, NZR said.
The CBA also includes additional investment in education and career training for players, including anti-doping, mental health and anti-corruption programmes.
($1 = 1.3885 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)