Warriors head-to-head with Rugby World Cup IRB ban

By Yvonne Tahana, Mathew Dearnaley

A large crowd welcomes home the Warriors at Auckland Airport after their victory in Melbourne. Photo / Richard Robinson
A large crowd welcomes home the Warriors at Auckland Airport after their victory in Melbourne. Photo / Richard Robinson

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is promising to seek alternative venues to "Party Central" to screen next weekend's league grand final between the Warriors and Manly.

That is because of a contractual ban on rival sporting codes being catered for at the official Rugby World Cup fan zones of Queens and Captain Cook Wharves.

Thousands of fans who watched the All Blacks beat France on big screens there on Saturday night abandoned the wharves later to find somewhere else to watch the Warriors overwhelm the Melbourne Storm in their preliminary final clash.

Last night, Warriors ambassador Sir Peter Leitch said he backed the cup "110 per cent" - but organisers needed to remember who had footed the lion's share of the bill for the rugby venues.

"Those venues have been built with taxpayer money, not Rugby World Cup money.

If they want to put a block on it then, mate, they should pack their bags and toys and get out of this country and go to Russia and have their World Cup."

Sir Peter said he had received calls from All Black coach Graham Henry and players such as Jimmy Cowan who were stoked the league team were in the finals.

Mayor Brown, who was watching the Fiji-Samoa rugby match on the big screen at the TelstraClear Events Centre in Manukau yesterday afternoon with more than 3000 fans, declined to comment on contractual issues covering the fan zones.

But he said the council would consider options over the next couple of days for potential venues for watching the league final.

"I am hugely proud of the Vodafone Warriors and I know all of Auckland is after their massive [20-12] win over the Storm in Melbourne on Saturday," Mr Brown said. "Our attention is now focused on how we can best celebrate them making the NRL grand final on Sunday night."

The Government's representative in administering the fan zones, Peter Winder, was reported yesterday as saying he would "love" to screen the league final on the two wharves.

"But as I am sure you will understand, there are rather difficult commercial arrangements in playing a league game in a Rugby World Cup fan zone."

There is also a timing difficulty, as the league final kicks off in New South Wales at 7pm New Zealand time on Sunday, overlapping two World Cup rugby games - Wales v Fiji in Hamilton at 6pm and Ireland v Italy in Dunedin at 8.30pm.

Queens Wharf's resurrection has been a collaborative effort between ratepayers and taxpayers since the Government and the former Auckland Regional Council bought it from the port company in mid-2009 for $40 million.

The Government has since spent $9.8 million building the Cloud structure on the wharf, and Waterfront Auckland forked out $900,000 for its two giant screens.

The Auckland Council allocated $2.7 million for Rugby World Cup opening day celebrations from its $35 million operating budget for the tournament.

- NZ Herald

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