Rugby and netball could be relegated to "minority sport" status in Auckland within 20 years if sports bodies fail to meet the needs of immigrants, a Massey University researcher says.

In his report, Sport and Cultural Diversity: responding to the sports and leisure needs of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Auckland, sociologist Paul Spoonley warns that sports administrators must look to migrant communities to maintain player/supporter numbers as Auckland's migrant population continues to grow.

Women's sports such as netball and hockey needed to recognise the cultural requirements of Muslim women if they were to benefit from the growth in immigration from non-traditional sources, Professor Spoonley said.

"These people will more likely be supporters of soccer, rather than rugby ... With the All Whites' qualification into next year's World Cup, rugby will have to overcome quite a significant hurdle if it wants to win over supporters from the migrant communities ahead of 2011."

Until the late 1980s, most of New Zealand's migrants came from Britain, Ireland and the Pacific, but over the past 20 years, many more came from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where rugby and netball have little appeal.

Professor Spoonley's report takes the example of North Harbour Rugby, where just 0.5 per cent of its 2394 senior club players - and 1.5 per cent of the 8000 junior players - are Asian.

Census figures from 2006 show 40.1 per cent of the Auckland City population was born overseas, with nearly half born in Asia.

The Asian population is tipped to double to 400,000 by 2016, making it second only to Pakeha (860,000) and ahead of Pacific people (260,000) and Maori (183,000).

"Rugby and netball have not been responsive to the new demographics, unlike sports like table tennis and badminton. If they continue to do nothing, who knows, they may just become minority sports in the next 20 years," Professor Spoonley said.

"Super-diversity is here to stay and should become part of the strategic and delivery mechanisms of any Auckland-based organisation, sporting or otherwise."

A range of sports organisations were interviewed for the report, commissioned by the Auckland Regional Physical Activity and Sport Trust.

But the professor said "some are reluctant and a few even hostile to expanding what they do to include ethnic and immigrant communities".