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Chairman Ray Haffenden today said the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) looked forward to working with government funding agency Sparc to make wide-ranging changes to the sport.

Haffenden said both the NZRL board and district leagues had embraced the recommendations released today from an independent review.

"The board was unanimous in endorsing the resolutions the committee reached," he said.

"There was a totally positive reaction at presentations made to the district leagues and affiliated bodies up and down the country over the last three days."

The review was headed by businessman and former New Zealand Cricket chairman Sir John Anderson and came after concerns Sparc expressed about the health of rugby league.

Sparc's concerns related to governance, management, financial sustainability and the lack of a strategic plan.

The review's 10 recommendations include a new constitution and a new board structure with a "robust appointment process".

The new structure would have seven board members, four appointed and three elected, with equal voting rights.

The appointment committee of four would have two Sparc appointees.

The board would adopt processes that included transparency, commitment to excellence and a strategy of development and delivery.

There would also be a seven-zone set-up, with the zones having voting rights in the NZRL.

Each zone would have its own constitution and board, and be responsible for co-ordinating programmes, running competitions, sponsorship and grass roots activities.

The review's report said Sparc had agreed to provide transition funding of $450,000 to support the first stage of the implementation of the recommendations through to September 30.

It said the new NZRL board would have to secure ongoing funding to support the new zone structure and the adoption of a strategic plan.

In outlining the rationale for the review, the report said the NZRL had losses of $2.2 million for the 2006 and 2007 periods and no cash reserves.

Registered playing number had fallen to fewer than 17,000, compared with 30,000 to 40,000 in the 1990s.

There was no national competition and the majority of district competitions were struggling, with no teams in the Otago and Tasman districts.

There had been the loss of support of key funding partners and sponsors and there was no strategic plan.

Last May, Sparc proposed the review, and its position is that the recommendations have to be implemented for it to have confidence in making significant investment in the sport in future.

Haffenden said that, as expected, the review committee's findings established that there were major issues with rugby league's governance and structures at all levels.

"The game cannot go on the way it has been," he said.

"It is obvious dramatic change is needed if we are to again become a viable concern on New Zealand's sporting landscape."

Haffenden said all stakeholders needed to focus on the future rather than the past now the committee's findings had been released.

Spar chief executive Peter Miskimmin applauded the NZRL board for unanimously endorsing the recommendations.

"The recommendations are far-reaching and extensive," he said.

"However, rugby league - a bedrock sport in this country - is in crisis and can't be allowed to fail.

"The independent review committee says major changes, and not just tweaking, are required and Sparc agrees with the position."

- NZPA