A New Zealand Rugby Union review has recommended private ownership of the country's five Super Rugby franchises, a move which would result in a huge shake-up for the domestic game.

New Zealand's five franchises - the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders - are effectively owned by the NZRU but the organisation has decided that the financial model is broken.

The news comes hard on the heels of chief executive Steve Tew's complaints around the financial administration of the global game by the International Rugby Board, which sees major rugby countries like New Zealand and Australia making big losses in World Cup years.

Tew told a British newspaper: "We lose $13.2 million of revenue after income from Rugby World Cup and costs are adjusted. It cannot carry on ..."


Tew was speaking in the knowledge that the model for the New Zealand domestic game cannot continue and that plans are under way which could result in radical changes.

Tew last night confirmed that an independent review of the structure of Super Rugby and the New Zealand franchises had been commissioned this year.

"A key priority for NZRU is ensuring professional rugby in New Zealand is financially sustainable," he said.

"A draft review has been sent to provincial unions and franchises for their feedback, before it is presented to the NZRU Board for discussion.

"While the NZRU board has yet to make any decisions concerning the draft findings and recommendation, the draft report clearly recognises the financial realities of the game and suggests recommendations on the future governance, ownership and financial viability of Super Rugby.

"Given that we are in the middle of the review process and reviewing feedback from provincial unions on the draft findings, it would not be appropriate to speculate further on specific options or outcomes."

While Tew said he couldn't give too much away, APNZ understands that the review has recommended private ownership of the franchises.

If given the green light, franchises could be owned by individuals in much the same way as professional rugby clubs are in Europe. It's not a new concept in New Zealand - the New Zealand Warriors league club is owned by businessman Eric Watson, and the Phoenix Football Club was owned by Terry Serepisos - but it's a huge shift in thinking by the NZRU, who will agree to give each franchise autonomy.

Until now, the NZRU has kept a tight hold on the reins in order to create a level playing field for the franchises. The main front-of-jersey sponsor has been the same for all New Zealand franchises since 1996, when the Super Rugby competition started.

The main reason for this was the fear that less successful franchises wouldn't be able to raise the same revenue for front-of-jersey sponsors as the ones with on-field success, such as the Blues and Crusaders.

* Kicked off as Super 12 in Palmerston North in 1996 when the Blues beat the Hurricanes.

* Last year running the competition contributed $1m to $9.4m NZRU operating loss.

* Money from five-year US$437m broadcasting deal helps fund the competition.