New Zealand Rugby has been congratulated on its on-field success and financial health, but believes it should do more to have women in governing roles within the organisation.
"If we pride ourselves on being world leaders, which we are on and off the field, gender on the New Zealand Rugby board will become a point of significant external criticism if we fail to deal with it," chairman Brent Impey said after today's AGM in Wellington. "This becomes even more compelling considering the increased women participation numbers, and the anticipated growth in women's sevens post Rio."
Nearly 20,000 women and girls play rugby in New Zealand, 30 per cent up on 2012 levels, but there are no women on the NZR board, although three women have been co-opted to each of the board committees.
"In order to drive revenue to then reinvest into the game, we will need partnerships, such as with governments or other organisations, for example Sport New Zealand. It's hard not to see that - at some point - we will come under pressure to address gender diversity on our board from government if we want funding," Impey said.
"We can't ignore the issue - or the opportunity, it will continue to be a barrier to real progress if we don't. If we want to be leaders, then we must address it," he said.
Another issue is the growth of the game in Auckland, with chief executive Steve Tew saying it hadn't met NZR targets.
"We recorded a number of other successes, with strong growth and performance in women's rugby a real highlight," he said. "But we missed a number of targets, particularly in the wider Auckland region and the community game. We'll always set ambitious targets, because that's what we do as an organisation, but knowing they were going to be hard to achieve doesn't reduce our disappointment at failing to achieve them."
In Auckland, NZR set a single target of five per cent growth in registered player number, but did not achieve that.
"Despite that, we delivered a number of important new initiatives that should result in increased participation in the future. Auckland remains an important priority and we'll continue to support activity that makes rugby the sport of choice for people across this large region, in close partnership with the three unions and the Blues," he said.
Otherwise Impley said the game here was in good heart, with a successful year on the field after the All Blacks won back-to-back World Cups, and a healthy financial situation. However, next year the union is forecasting a loss of more than $10m.
"We have enjoyed incredible successes and achieved what has never been achieved before on the field," he said.
Adding to the All Blacks' success, the NZ under-20s were crowned world champions and the Highlanders won their inaugural Super Rugby title.
Also, an increase in women's participation drove registrations above the 150,000 mark again.
"Financially, we are in a strong position, with record levels of income and healthy reserves. We also confirmed the Provincial Union Funding Model, which will see 30 per cent more money invested at community and provincial levels from 2016."
The investment equates to approximately $9m annually and follows confirmation of the broadcast contracts for another five-year period.
As previously announced, New Zealand Rugby recorded a loss of $463,000. Cash reserves closed the year at $59.1 million slightly down on 2014.
Impey said despite the favourable financial position, greater levels of investment were required.
"We face a revenue challenge if we hope to continue growing investment in the game. We are forecasting losses in four of the five years, the exception being next year with the British & Irish Lions. Our aim is to reach breakeven over the period, but it is clear already that this will be a big challenge.
"We are anticipating a loss of more than $10 million in 2016, which is largely the result of the commitment we made to Provincial Unions through the funding review."
He said NZR was looking at ways to generate revenue from the growing digital part of the business and further commercial opportunities. This involved exploring offshore partnerships and investments, and promoting other national teams into growth markets such as Asia and North America.
"This will inevitably involve some risk, but to maintain our leadership in the game, we must be prepared to take advantage of the right opportunities," he said.
* Rugby World Cup 2011 winning Head Coach Sir Graham Henry was elected Life Member of New Zealand Rugby. Henry, who was knighted in 2012 for his services to the game, became a professional coach in 1996, coaching, Auckland, the Blues, Wales and the British and Irish Lions before steering the All Blacks to their second World Cup triumph.
"I feel very privileged to be elected Life Member, it is a very elite club," said Sir Graham on being elected.
Former All Blacks captain Sir Brian Lochore who coached the 1987 Rugby World Cup winning team, was re-elected as Patron. He was elected as Patron for the first time in 2013 when he was also made a Life Member.