'As tough as it has been ... I am happier now than I was two months ago': Conrad Smith hopeful that potential new deal forces greater debate
Former All Blacks midfielder Conrad Smith is pleased that a potential new opportunity for fund-raising is on the table for New Zealand Rugby, despite the increased tensions between NZR and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association.
Smith, who is employed by International Rugby Players, had concerns when the widely discussed Silver Lake deal was first presented as the only way forward for NZR, given the proposal to sell off a 15 per cent stake in what effectively amounts to the All Blacks brand’s future earning potential.
While the provincial unions are all on board with the Silver Lake deal, the NZRPA has ostensibly rejected it in its current state.
NZR chairman Brent Impey has said that not going ahead with the arrangement would amount to “the biggest own goal in the history of New Zealand sport” due to the cash the agreement would inject into the New Zealand game, as well as the other benefits that Silver Lake are able to bring to the table through their years of experience in sports investment.
The players’ association have been unwavering in their opinion, however, that alternatives must be explored.
One such alternative that Forsyth Barr have presented comes in the form of seeking investment from New Zealanders through an IPO.
NZR were unhappy with the way the deal was proposed, however, suggesting that private information was provided to Forsyth Barr without the New Zealand union’s consent.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Smith has opined that while the bad blood that’s arisen from the dispute is far from ideal, it at least means that there’s a discussion taking place.
“In a funny way, as tough as it has been for me to see this bad blood being spilt, I am happier now than I was two months ago when this deal was going through and no one was talking about the risk or potential other options,” Smith told the Herald.
“While the process has been far from ideal, people are talking about this now and there can be genuine debate within New Zealand.
“NZR will tell us they have had this debate, but I think this is a decision bigger than just one board. When you are talking about the All Blacks who have 120 plus years of history and a decision that is going to affect the next 120 years, surely you want as many people who care about it to consider it and debate it?”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 15, 2021
Smith also shut down suggestions that the NZRPA were simply trying to deliver the best financial package to the players.
“As an All Black team we were a flagship for a nation and we prided ourselves on being better than any other country,” Smith said.
“You don’t just say that as a gimmicky thing to try to motivate yourself for one game … So when it comes to matters like this, it is front of mind that the guys want to make sure that the money coming in is looking after the parts of the game that we all came from and keeping it a community game – a game for all New Zealanders. Those things are massive to all the players.
“It has never been about players wanting money or their share compared with the community game. We need money so it can be given back to the community game and make NZR more secure.”
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw also recently expressed a preference for assessing all possible options on the table instead of blanketly rejecting them.
“We’ve got to have a look at it and debate it,” he said of the Forsyth Barr proposal.
“Don’t be afraid of it. It’s not saying one’s definitely better than the other, but the thing I really want to see is to look at these options, and don’t just dismiss it because it wasn’t yours.”
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