Rippa rugby is among community initiatives that will benefit from the more than $1 million in funding coming Northland’s way as part of the $200m deal. Photo / Supplied
Northland rugby did not sell its soul to an American conglomerate when voting in favor of a $200 million partnership between New Zealand Rugby and US investment firm Silver Lake.
Cameron Bell, chief executive of
Northland Rugby Union (NRU), said the deal would enable grassroots rugby to benefit from more than $1m his union would receive after Thursday’s sign-off.
The deal is being touted as one of the largest in New Zealand sports history – but rugby pundits have cautioned the sport’s governing body and the provincial unions to tread carefully.
The deal will enable NZ Rugby to sell a significantly reshaped 5.7 to 8.6 per cent stake in its commercial rights to the American company.
Provincial unions cast 90 votes via secret ballot in favor of the deal, with only one vote against it, and the deal will see $37m distributed immediately, with the 14 NPC teams receiving $1m each, 12 heartland unions $500,000 each ($6m total ), Māori rugby $2m, community clubs $7.5m, the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association $5m and the five Super Rugby teams $1.25m between them.
A contestable $60m legacy fund, aimed at future-proofing the grassroots game, will also be established.
In addition to the $200m, there will be an opportunity for NZ institutional investors to raise $62.5m and $100m. If there is insufficient institutional demand, Silver Lake would increase its position to ensure a minimum capital raise of $62.5m.
NRU chairman Andrew Ritchie voted in favor of the deal.
“The management committee in my team and at the board are astute, intelligent people who have reviewed the deal and challenged it and although it has taken longer than needed, the deal is better for the provincial unions,” Bell said.
“We are not selling our soul to an American conglomerate. I am excited about the potential for us in Northland to invest back into our community and that will require work with the community teams as to where investments are needed.”
He said one concern that probably stalled negotiations was funding being poured into high performance units but NRU’s budget was set and did not need to go down that path.
“The NRU board and my team will be looking at where investments are needed and what types are needed to grow the game because we need to survive, not just over the next one or two years, but five or 10 years.
“One of the ways we can help grassroots rugby grow is to create a seed fund for things like changing rooms that probably don’t have female changing facilities. Some clubs might need a new roof or a kids’ play area,” Bell said.
“We’ll try and create a surplus for long-term sustainability but Northland is in a stronger financial position than other provincial unions. We won’t be paying off debts.
“One of the things we could do is to create a working capital component and combine that with funding for clubs. We have the best provincial stadium, and probably the best facility, on Pohe Island so we don’t need to spend money there.
NRU community pathways and finance manager Kylie Harper will liaise with clubs and find out their needs in terms of funding over the next few weeks, he said.
After painstaking and at times bitter 11-month negotiations with the Players’ Association, followed by three months of trade-offs with the provincial unions, NZ Rugby belatedly secured approval to sell a significantly reshaped 5.7 to 8.6 per cent stake in its commercial rights to the US investment firm.
NZ Rugby chairman Stewart Mitchell said the deal sign-off was a “monumental moment” in the history of NZ rugby.