The Chiefs today confirmed their new Super Rugby licence agreement, including their new partnership with the Taranaki Rugby Union which will see two matches played in New Plymouth including a showdown against rivals the Blues.
Taranaki had long been rumoured to be seeking to join the Chiefs rather than stick with the Hurricanes and it was finally announced at a press conference in Hamilton today.
The licence holding entity will be known as Chiefs Rugby Club Limited Partnership and comprises unions from Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, King Country, Taranaki, Thames Valley and Waikato. The group will operate the franchise until 2020.
The unions hold 50 per cent of the shares in the Chiefs Rugby Club and private investors from Taranaki, Waikato and elsewhere; 50 per cent. The shareholders have invested $3.3 million into the new entity.
"We are very pleased the Chiefs can now face the future with renewed confidence and build on the impressive on-field success the franchise has enjoyed of late,'' said New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew.
"The new arrangement injects fresh thinking and new capital to put the Chiefs on a sound commercial footing. We are also impressed with the calibre of the private investors who have decided to back the team. All this augers well for the long term financial well-being of the Chiefs.''
Taranaki had been part of the Hurricanes franchise area since the inception of Super Rugby in 1996.
This will see New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium host two Chiefs matches in 2014 against the Blues on May 9 and the Waratahs on May 31. Two matches will be played in 2015.
Waikato Stadium will continue to host a minimum of five home matches per year with six Super Rugby matches allocated in 2014. Match allocation beyond 2015 will be made on a year by year basis.
"We carefully weighed up the involvement of Taranaki Rugby in this and were mindful of some fans' loyalty to the Hurricanes as well as some fans' unease in Waikato,'' said Tew. "However, on balance, and supported by fan research, we found this new arrangement would be broadly supported by fans in both regions.
Today's announcement completes the process begun in December 2011 with licences now awarded to run four of the five Super Rugby franchises.
"Our aim all along was to build a stronger foundation for the professional game in this country while ensuring it maintained its ability to feed a winning All Blacks team so we are very pleased with the progress we have made in rolling out the new operating model,'' said Tew.
New Zealand Rugby confirmed it was also looking closely at the possibility of embarking on a similar process for the Highlanders in 2014.
Chiefs licence shareholdings:
Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union 11.55 per cent
Waikato Rugby Union 11.55 per cent
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union 11.55 per cent
Taranaki Rugby Football Union 11.55 per cent
Thames Valley Rugby Football Union 1.9 per cent
King Country Rugby Football Union 1.9 per cent
Waikato Syndicate 24.93 per cent
Taranaki Syndicate 11.18 per cent
Other 13.89 per cent