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Cash-strapped NZR have entered into a Dragons Den or Shark Tank-type arrangement

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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So it was all about money in the end.

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Yep, all that huffing and puffing from the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) about the sanctity of the All Blacks’ jersey, protecting things such as the haka and the grassroots game was simply hot air.

After months of basically calling New Zealand Rugby (NZR) – who lest we forget are the players’ employers – halfwits, the NZRPA agreed to a revised deal with private equity firm Silver Lake because they’ll make a few more bucks from it.

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Never mind that NZR are going broke for one reason alone, which is paying the players’ wages. No, agreeing to Silver Lake’s $200 million windfall, while maintaining their entitlement to 36.5 percent of NZR earnings, came down to the fact they’ll be taking their sizeable wedge from a significantly bigger pie.

Those All Blacks already making a million dollars a year can expect that to go up, we’re told. How nice for them.

The deal isn’t completely done, obviously. In true NZR fashion, they’ve gained agreement from one stakeholder but not yet stitched up the other.

You’ll remember that’s how this bunfight with the NZRPA started. Our erstwhile governing body had New Zealand’s 26 provincial unions on board, without having come to terms with the players.

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This time it’s the other way around.

Last time, too, the Silver Lake deal was nearer $400m, for a larger stake in a separate commercial entity. This time Silver Lake get less than 10 percent, but are stumping up a lot less too.

On that basis, it’s hard to see how the provincial unions are going to gain the same riches promised to them first time around.

We’ll assume the unions will roll over, because what other option do they have? But that still doesn’t answer the question of how Silver Lake will get their pound of flesh?

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Junk, such as NFTs and virtual tickets to matches, are being thrown up. That’s right, buy your virtual ticket to Ellis Park, whack on some weird goggles and you’re right there watching the All Blacks play the Springboks.

Assuming South Africa are still part of SANZAAR by then.

But I digress.

So what are we going to get? Out of test-window rubbish, such as the All Blacks playing the United States in Washington DC, again?

How about a bit of merchandise?

Yes, the reason NZR barely make a buck now is that not enough people in China or Brazil can buy an All Blacks jumper. Well, guess what, thanks to the nifty new setup with Silver Lake, jumpers are going to be flying off the racks of Rio de Janeiro.

Want to watch an All Blacks test, without going virtual? Well, the rights for everything will inevitably be divided up among a variety of streamers, so get ready to subscribe to half a dozen of those.

And for what? To keep, as NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol mentioned a few days ago, Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea in the country? No thanks.

I’m not a businessman. I don’t get the minutiae of deals like the one between NZR and Silver Lake. But, nor I suspect, do NZR. Or at least not to the degree that Silver Lake does.

This partnership is being hailed by NZR and the NZRPA as a great one. Maybe. But, dollars to donuts, I suspect Silver Lake will do a lot better out of this than our lot ever will.

Cash-strapped NZR have entered into a Dragons Den or Shark Tank-type arrangement here, where they’ve offered up a percentage of a business they rate as being worth $3.5 billion.

With all the naivety of someone selling novelty underpants, NZR think they have a good product. Only it’s not making any money, so if someone could just stump up some cash and provide a bit of marketing expertise, then they’ll all get rich.

Well, sharks eat sprats like NZR for breakfast.

Good on the NZRPA. They’ll do well out of this and NZR will plug a financial hole or two, in the short term.

But I doubt the Silver Lake deal will ever benefit fans, nor sustain the game here for future generations.

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