A landmark agreement will be announced tomorrow confirming that the Black Ferns are to be rewarded with improved pay deals.

From previously receiving assembly fees of $2000 a week — which would amount to a total of around $8000-$10,000 and $16,000 to $18,000 in World Cup year — those who make the Black Ferns in future will be paid annual retainers which are expected to be worth around $15,000 to $30,000.

With more training camps likely to be held this year and hopes of an expanded playing schedule, the leading female players are likely to earn $30,000 to $45,000 a year once assembly fees are included.

It is believed there could also be a retrospective bonus payment of $10,000 made to those who were part of the triumphant World Cup campaign last year.


This new deal is the result of prolonged negotiations between New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Players' Association, who have been locked in talks since the Black Ferns won their fifth World Cup last August.

The Black Ferns' triumph captured the public imagination and the final, against England, set a record TV audience of 2.6 million in the UK.

The wave of public interest in the Black Ferns coincided with the publication of NZR's respect and responsibility review which revealed that the game was struggling to embrace diversity and inclusivity.

The previous year had seen a number of worrying, high profile incidents which alluded to an endemic culture of misogyny in the professional ranks and a lack of respect for women.

With the issue of gender inequality firmly in the national agenda, there was widespread criticism at the discrepancy in World Cup payments made to the All Blacks and Black Ferns: players in the former earned $7500 a week in assembly fees and each received a $100,000 bonus for winning while the latter were on $2000 a week and received no bonus.

The World Cup victory of 2015 was worth $160,000 to each All Black, while the Black Ferns, through four weeks of assembly fees, took home $8000.

The All Blacks also flew business class to their World Cup in England while the Black Ferns were in economy.

The new deal effectively means that the Black Ferns will now be included in what is known as the Player Payment Pool. About 37 per cent of NZR's annual revenue — $257 million in 2017 — is ring-fenced to pay professional players.


There will be other basic conditions the Black Ferns can expect such as advanced notice around training camps to allow them to better plan taking time off.

This will move the Black Ferns closer in line to the Black Ferns Sevens who have been paid annual retainers for several years now.

Up to 20 female sevens players are contracted to play in seven global tournaments annually as well as the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

But while the Black Ferns are moving in line with their sevens colleagues in regard to payments, the challenge of finding more regular international fixtures remains.

England have made a major commitment to XVs, but many other countries have focused their investment in women's rugby exclusively on sevens.

NZR chief executive Steve Tew has also suggested that the foundation of a professional XV-a-side tournament in New Zealand is not necessarily imminent.


For that to happen, there would need to be significant investment from both a broadcaster and sponsors.

"We are talking to a number of interested partners more specifically about women's rugby sponsorship," says Tew. "But that is where the rubber hits the road isn't it. The game is there waiting to be used in a broader sense but we now have to be able to do those deals."