Kelly Makiha is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Chiefs will bypass Bay of Plenty

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Chiefs player Tawera Kerr-Barlow during the Chiefs v Waratahs Super Rugby pre-season match at the Rotorua International Stadium. Photo/file
Chiefs player Tawera Kerr-Barlow during the Chiefs v Waratahs Super Rugby pre-season match at the Rotorua International Stadium. Photo/file

The Bay of Plenty has missed out on hosting any Chiefs games this season.

The Gallagher Chiefs will open their 2017 Investec Super Rugby campaign with a pre-season match in Brisbane on Feburary 8. The home games get under way on March 3 at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.

There will be seven home games played in Hamilton and one in New Plymouth. There is also one game played in neutral territory in May in Suva, Fiji.

Rotorua hosted a pre-season match against the Waratahs in February this year but neither it nor Tauranga will host any games next year.

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers said while he always wanted to see Chiefs games in the Bay of Plenty he was not surprised Rotorua and Tauranga had missed out.

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"Realistically, they have a number of venues they need to consider for home games."

Mr Rogers said there was the Chiefs home base in Hamilton as well as Pukekohe, Rotorua, Tauranga and New Plymouth to consider.

"They have to distribute them around the region to the best commercial outcomes as well."

He said the Chiefs were on record as saying Tauranga did not have a viable stadium for them to play at and the only other Bay of Plenty venue was in Rotorua.

"I'm not surprised we have missed out when you consider all things but I would have loved to see it in the Bay of Plenty because we have got such a strong rugby population with a strong connection to the Chiefs."

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said the need for a local rugby stadium did not stack up when compared to the cost.

"The whole question around the stadium is the affordability of it. You can't be dictated to by missing out on a game here and there. You can't commit the council to that kind of expenditure without substantial private funding coming in to it. It's a bigger issue than just missing out on a few games."

Mr Brownless said he was aware of other areas that built stadiums in effort to attract more visitors but the games still did not come.

"There's no guarantees," he said. "I can see the benefit of these things but we can't just spend money on that because we're missing a game or two. If it is really a great deal then I'm sure there will be private people who could help start things off."

Rotorua district councillor and local Chiefs fan Charles Sturt said he would boycott next year's home games as a result of news the Bay of Plenty had missed out on hosting any games.

Mr Sturt, who was Rotorua Lakes Council's sports and recreation portfolio leader prior to the election, said in his view the decision not to play in Rotorua was "a disgrace".

"Every year I get a season pass and I go to all the home games in Rotorua, Hamilton and when they were in Tauranga with my son but I will not be going next year. I have travelled over religously but that's the end of it for me. I've had it."

Mr Sturt said Rotorua was part of the Chiefs' franchise, attracted a good crowd of 14,500 people at this year's pre-match and and players had historically said they loved playing at the stadium.

"I'm devastated, that's a disgrace. We (the council) spend a fortune on maintaining that stadium up to a certain standard, it's one of the best in New Zealand and can hold 36,000 people but no one wants to use it."

In response to questions about why Rotorua had missed out, a Chiefs spokeswoman said chief executive Andrew Flexman would be the person to comment but he was overseas until next week.

Rotorua Lakes Council operations and event development manager Crispian Stewart said he appreciated the decision the Chiefs had made.

"Despite not securing any games this time round, we look forward to future opportunities with the team as we always put our hand up to host Super games each season."

Mr Stewart said the Rotorua International Stadium was an ideal venue for big games, and although it was well-used for community events such as athletics and secondary competitions, the council looked forward to hosting higher profile events such as the upcoming National Rugby Sevens in January.

In a press release from the Chiefs franchise, chief executive Mr Flexman said a highlight next year would be June 20 when the Chiefs played the British and Irish Lions at FMG Stadium Waikato, as well as the game in Fiji.

"We are thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to play in Fiji again in 2017 off the back of a wonderful occasion in Suva last year," Mr Flexman said.

"The people of Fiji love the game of rugby and it is important that we do our bit to promote the standing of the sport in that country.

"We know many of our Chiefs fans thoroughly enjoyed the experience of travelling to the island destination last year so it is another opportunity for them to get on the road with the Gallagher Chiefs and be part of something truly unique."

- Additional reporting Kiri Gillespie


2017 Gallagher Chiefs home draw

Wednesday 8 February - Pre season match: Gallagher Chiefs v Bulls, Ballymore, Brisbane

Friday 3 March - Gallagher Chiefs vs Blues, FMG Stadium Waikato, 7.35pm

Friday 10 March - Gallagher Chiefs vs Hurricanes, FMG Stadium Waikato, 7.35pm

Saturday 1 April - Gallagher Chiefs vs Bulls, FMG Stadium Waikato, 7.35pm

Saturday 29 April - Gallagher Chiefs vs Sunwolves, FMG Stadium Waikato, 7.35pm

Saturday 6 May - Gallagher Chiefs vs Reds, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, 7.35pm

Friday 19 May - Gallagher Chiefs vs Crusaders, ANZ Stadium, Suva, 7.35pm

Saturday 3 June - Gallagher Chiefs vs Waratahs, FMG Stadium Waikato, 5.05pm

Tuesday 20 June - Gallagher Chiefs v British & Irish Lions, FMG Stadium Waikato, 7.30pm

Saturday 15 July - Gallagher Chiefs vs Brumbies, FMG Stadium Waikato, 5.15pm

- Bay of Plenty Times

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