Rugby-New Zealand provincial unions block governance reforms

  • Rugby
  • Thursday, 30 May 2024

(Reuters) -New Zealand's provincial rugby unions voted against proposed governance reforms pushed by the sport's national governing body and players' association on Thursday in a move that could lead to a split in the domestic game.

At a Special General Meeting (SGM) in Wellington, the unions voted 59-31 against a proposed leadership structure pushed by New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Chairwoman Patsy Reddy which called for all members of the board to be independent, as advised by a governance review.

The unions instead voted 69-21 in favour of their own "Proposal 2", which demands that at least three of the nine members have two years' experience on one of their boards.

The rejection of NZR's proposal was a major blow for the governing body's leadership and paves the way for major board upheaval.

Reddy said in March that she would consider her position if her proposal failed to pass at the SGM.

The NZR board acknowledged the decision in a statement.

"This represents a significant change, and it is in the best interests of rugby that we move forward together," it read.

"The NZR board will implement this decision as quickly as possible, including the process for applications for board positions to ensure it has the best possible mix of skills, diversity, and perspectives."

The vote followed a threat by the players' association last week to split with NZR and set up a new governing body for the professional game if Reddy's proposal was blocked.

The New Zealand Rugby Players' Association (NZRPA) criticised the provincial unions in a statement soon after the vote.

"It was a great opportunity for the game to make the changes required," NZRPA boss Rob Nichol said.

"It's incredibly unfortunate we haven't taken that opportunity and ended up with what the expert labelled status quo or worse."

The provincial rugby unions said the vote would ensure the board retained strong links with the 150,000 people who play the game in New Zealand.

"The NZ Rugby board oversees the entire game, bottom to top, so we are pleased the NZ board will remain anchored in the entire game, bottom to top," said spokeswoman Rowena Duncum.

"We will have a board capable of overseeing NZR’s international and commercial activity, and its management of the domestic game."

The governance review was commissioned in December 2022 after NZR secured a NZ$200 million ($120 million) cash injection by selling a stake in its commercial business to U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake.

The review said NZR's leadership structure was not fit for purpose in the modern age.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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