New Zealand Rugby confirmed today that player payments, as calculated under the salary cap across the 14 ITM Cup provincial unions, fell $1.1 million in 2012.
Salary cap payments totalled $12.8 million; $3.5 million lower than the maximum permitted.
This was also eight per cent lower than the $13.9 million calculated in 2011 and 13 per cent lower than 2010 ($14.7 million).
All 14 provincial unions kept salary cap payments under their respective salary cap levels for 2012. The salary cap is set at the lower of either $1.35 million or 36 per cent of the union's commercial revenue.
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Salary cap payments are calculated following adjustments to actual player payments that reflect minimum payment thresholds, injuries and unavailability of players by way of example.
"This is an encouraging trend and shows that provincial unions are working hard to live within their means,'' said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.
"These remain difficult times for any union. On the revenue side, retaining and growing commercial income is a huge challenge.
"Player payments are the biggest bill any union faces so keeping those costs in check are also a critical part of the financial equation.
"The 2012 results are a positive sign of the huge effort under way at the provincial level to ensure the business of rugby is sustainable for the long term.''