Warning: This column is NOT about Warren Gatland. It will not mention anything about the (so-called) tit-for-tat coaches spat, won’t reference their (supposed) personal battle nor spend another second deciphering the “real intent” behind each man’s captured quotes. Plenty enough has already been said and read about such matters and really I have nothing more to add.


Instead, this epistle is essentially, and unashamedly, an advertorial in praise of the administrative body that runs our national game. Yes NZR is an autocratic organisation a dictatorial regime but, in terms of surviving & thriving the sport in NZ, this is one clear case where the end very definitely justifies the means. NZR (aka “The Politburo”) run rugby with an iron fist dictating every single decision made here regarding the sport.

We have a centralised contract system where, unlike the club system in the UK & France where individual owners exercise control, the Union owns all our players. In the case of many of Super Rugby’s franchise sides 49% ownership has been sold to private interests with the majority 51% still owned by NZR – meaning they also retain decision making power.

Added to that all the players know and understand you can only be selected for the All Blacks if you continue to play your rugby here in NZ. Obviously, exceptions have been made (i.e. Luke McAllister) when it suits, but the policy remains as rock solid as our team’s set-piece!

And, if you find it all a little too hands-on, then tell us how else the sport is meant to survive and thrive? How else do you keep the best players here in NZ? If there’s a better more workable plan then please present it!

Fact is the All Blacks alone, their image/brand/on-field success, are the one major funding plan for the entire sport in this country. They generate virtually all the income that in turn finances every level of the game. Make no mistake, keeping the ABs at the apex of world rugby is the essential piece of our whole puzzle.

It may seem like all eggs in the one basket and I guess it is because reality also reads that this team is the one and perhaps only saleable commodity NZR has. And very early on in the professional era those in charge of our administrative body thankfully recognised it as such and made key decisions based around promotion of the team, protecting its image and planning how to achieve continued on-field greatness.


What I’m trying to long-windedly say is they do do a bl**dy good job! Of course being involved in this business even uttering that will inevitably result in scornful rebuke and allegations of butt-kissing, selling-out etc. Whatever.

Somebody somewhere please start a facebook page, write your own hashtag alongside and fire off another 1000 anonymous soc-med posts. Then wake me up when you admit the truth. The All Blacks as the iconic winning team of international rugby will endure because of the commercial acumen of those who have run and are now running the country’s admin. That is simply fact.

They have signed the best players and most successful coaches to stay in NZ, they have a blue-chip client list of loyal sponsors also on long-term deals. No the model isn’t for everyone, but it IS for us.

Well done NZR. Call them autocratic, sure. Call them dictatorial, fair cop. But also call them incredibly successful because that is (also) equally undeniable. Praise be where praise due.


There. Wasn’t that hard to say now was it?

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now