Discussions will start after this year's Auckland Nines about the event's long-term future.

This year's Nines, which will be played over Waitangi weekend, is the third year of a five-year deal committing the event to Auckland.

It's been a popular concept, although the number of fans is expected to decline again, and there's likely to be competition from across the Tasman to see it relocate to Australia after 2018.

Duco Events, who organise and underwrite the tournament, are keen to keep it in New Zealand and will look to initiate discussions with the NRL and Auckland council (Ateed) about its long-term future. Ateed will invest $12 million to sponsor the Nines over the five years.


"I think the natural timing is probably at the conclusion of this event," Duco chief executive Martin Snedden said.

"The NRL, us and Ateed can look at what has happened over the three years of the Nines.

There are still two years to run in Auckland, and they will, but probably at that point we will start to look at what happens after 2018."

It has helped they found a naming rights sponsor for next month's tournament - engineering and infrastructure group Downer - after Dick Smiths went into receivership earlier this month and Snedden said they were approached by a number of companies keen to take over.

The tournament was close to a sellout in 2014, with 44,500 attending on each day, but dropped to 40,680 last year. Increased ticket prices accounted for some of that decline and prompted organisers to drop prices to this year's instalment.

"I think we are heading for a crowd of around 35,000 [per day], which we would be pretty happy with," Snedden said.

"I think it's still a pretty popular event but there are a lot of events in Auckland. You are competing with a lot. In year one we had the novelty factor that helped. We are still pretty happy with where that sits. If you look at the sporing events in New Zealand, and have a look at how many pull a crowd of more than 30,000 for two days in a row, there are not too many that stand out."