Rugby: NZRU looks to a golden future with more money for players

By Kris Shannon

"We have agreed on an increased focus on the sevens game, with increased provision for payments to All Blacks sevens players" NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said. Photo / Brett Phibbs
"We have agreed on an increased focus on the sevens game, with increased provision for payments to All Blacks sevens players" NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Gold medals don't come cheap and the New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday announced it is prepared to pay for a shot at double Olympic glory in 2016.

The lure of Olympic gold has already helped attract Benji Marshall to rugby and now it has seen sevens handed a big financial windfall in the players' collective contract agreement.

The new deal, signed by the NZRU and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA), governs professional rugby from 2013 to 2015 and includes a major boon for the abbreviated version of the game.

Where in the past sevens specialists would have to supplement their income in the ITM Cup, a significant increase in the amount of money from the player payment pool will now allow for fulltime players.

While the revenue sharing model will remain the same and see 36.5 per cent of the NZRU's generated revenue - equating to $121.2 million over three years - applied for the benefit of players, a bigger slice of the pie will now be going to the smaller game.

The previous payment fund for the men's programme has more than doubled from $1.6 million to $3.5 million, so a core group of players can specialise in, or prioritise, sevens ahead of the Rio Games in 2016.

And the men's sevens side are not the only winners, with a women's contracting model featuring in the player payment pool for the first time, underlining the growth of the game.

The model will see at least 16 players contracted on retainers and receiving tournament fees when selected, with $1.9 million set aside from the payment pool.

"We have agreed on an increased focus on the sevens game, with increased provision for payments to All Blacks sevens players and the introduction of a budget for New Zealand women's sevens players," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.

"[It] underlines the importance of both the sevens and women's game to New Zealand Rugby's 'Towards 2016' strategy."

That strategy comes with a clear goal - a pair of gold medals - and it's a goal that is eminently attainable considering both the men's and women's sides claimed the world championship crown in Moscow earlier this year.

Collective highlights

• Super rugby teams can contract 32 players (up from 28). The maximum retainer will remain at $180,000 next year but rise to $190,000 by 2015, while the minimum retainer is $70,000 (up from $60,000).

• Franchises may not de-list players at the end of the season before the length of their contract expires.

• Maximum provincial union retainer now $55,000 (reduced from $60,000), with an overall decrease in salary cap from $1.35 million this year to $1.025 million in 2015.

• Provincial union retainers for Super rugby players will be reduced by $5000 to assist their financial sustainability. A new ITM Cup incentive payment, funded directly from the player payment pool, will offset this reduction.

• Each player will receive $115,000, up from $100,000 in 2011, if the All Blacks will the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

- APNZ

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