Steve Tew has saved some criticism for smaller rugby nations in his final day at the helm at New Zealand Rugby.
The departing CEO’s 12-year tenure in the role comes to an end today, and he will make way for incoming CEO Mark Robinson, who takes over in January.
Under Tew, NZ Rugby has seen a significant amount of success and growth, with the All Blacks winning two Rugby World Cups and the women’s game becoming more and more prevalent on the international stage.
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Speaking with Radio Sport Breakfast, Tew listed one of Robinson’s biggest challenges ahead in maintaining the fight of growing the game in smaller markets.
“We’ve still got a battle at World Rugby to be a voice, we’ve still got a battle to make sure the future of the game in the Asia-Pacific region is stronger.”
Tew says the resistance behind that ‘battle’ is, ironically, provided by other smaller nations.
“It’s the smaller countries who consider themselves to be tier one countries that are the hurdle, because they’re making decisions which are frankly protecting them from the inevitable, which is other countries are going to challenge them because they don’t have a scale.
“The smaller countries like Scotland, Ireland and Italy are very protectionist and unfortunately have too much power.”
Tew says the bigger markets like New Zealand, Australia and England understand the landscape, and are “working really hard to give those nations the opportunities that they [tier two nations] deserve.”
World Rugby scrapped plans for the Nations Championship in June due to a lack of support from competing nations, particularly the Six Nations powers.
The tournament would have featured 12 international teams competing, with a second tier of developing nations.
Earlier, Robinson was staunch in his claim the game needs to continue growing globally, and said NZR are committed to that.
Tew added the role is non-stop and will continue to present Robinson challenges.
“The two big things are the finances of rugby and the battle we have against the big economies, there’s no question that continues to be an issue.
“Remaining relevant, particularly at the participation and the fan engagement level is not getting any easier. Kids are more and more impatient about what they’re going to do with their leisure time.”
While still proud of his work, Tew made the admission he would have done a few things differently if he was handed his time over as the CEO.
“If you don’t learn from every experience you’re not going anywhere are you. There’s plenty of times that I go ‘If I had that over again I might’ve tweaked this’.”
Tew added despite the All Blacks’ less-than-ideal finish at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, all of New Zealand’s international teams are in good shape.
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