SANZAAR chairman Brent Impey has announced his resignation from the role as he calls for “fundamental changes” to be made leading into an uncertain future for rugby in the southern hemisphere.

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After having been the governing body’s chair for five years, Impey went public with his decision to stand down on Tuesday, with the move to come into effect on December 31.

Pointing to his concurrent position as New Zealand Rugby [NZR] chairman as a conflict of interest with his SANZAAR role as one of many reasons behind his resignation, Impey said it is time for an independent chair to take charge.

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“In my view it is time for SANZAAR to make some fundamental changes which are best placed to happen under an independent chair,” he said in a statement released by NZR.

“While there was no imperative for change it was appropriate to rotate the role, however I now believe that the role of chair of a national union as well as chair of SANZAAR is a conflict for any country.”

Impey also called for SANZAAR to become “membership based” rather than persist with a “four country consensus model” is rugby in the southern hemisphere is to stand a chance in the global rugby landscape.

“I also hold the view that SANZAAR should become membership based. The four country consensus model is outdated if we are looking to grow the game commercially and internationally.

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“A membership model would allow the group to act together on issues such as the global calendar, rules, regulations, governance, and mutual commercial interests.

“Currently, the odds are heavily stacked against SANZAAR in its present form being able to affect change.”

In a statement released by SANZAAR, chief executive Andy Marinos echoed Impey’s sentiments, and confirmed that the body would convene an appointment panel with the aim of finding an independent chair.

“SANZAAR would like to sincerely thank Brent for the enthusiasm, energy and hard work he has contributed to the organisation over the last five years,” Marinos said.

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“He has been dedicated to the improvement and growth of rugby in the southern hemisphere, but it is understandable that in these uncertain times he wishes to step down as SANZAAR chair in order to steer New Zealand Rugby forward.

“SANZAAR has for some time recognised that the chair should move to an independent position to remove any conflict of interests and that best practice governance is followed.

“Exco will now form a panel to find a suitably qualified independent chair to lead the organisation.”

How SANZAAR continues to function alongside its four member unions – NZR, Rugby Australia [RA], South Africa Rugby [SA Rugby] and Union Argentina de Rugby [UAR] – remains to be seen in the midst of the Super Rugby’s overhaul.

The suspension of the competition, which had been SANZAAR’s premier club tournament since 1996, in March due to COVID-19 has forced member unions to restructure the league, which has dwindled in fan interest and competitiveness in recent years.

With travel restrictions preventing Super Rugby from resuming this year, NZR, RA and SA Rugby all formed their own domestic competitions featuring their respective franchises, with the latter two unions adding extra teams.

Both NZR and RA have announced they will retain their respective tournaments – Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU – in 2021, with teams from both competitions to face each other in a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman cross-over competition next year.

Heavy speculation suggests the two unions will join forces to create a permanent 12-team competition from 2022, with two teams from the Pacific Islands – thought to be the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika – expected to join the five franchises from New Zealand and Australia.

Officials in South Africa, meanwhile, voted in September to explore moving their four Super Rugby teams into Europe’s PRO14, a competition they have frequently been linked with and already features two ex-Super Rugby sides, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings.

However, the future of the Rugby Championship, SANZAAR’s premier test rugby competition, looks all but safe for the next decade, with SA Rugby earlier this month confirming their commitment to the tournament through until 2030.

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