Super Rugby expansion takes yet another blow

As if the expansion of the Super 14 to a Super 15 did not have enough troubles and obstacles the expansion process as took another blow when it was revealed on wednesday that nine of New Zealand’s provincial Unions have expressed grave concerns over the expansion.

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) now has another faction to consider when the future of Super Rugby is finalised for the next five years over coming weeks.

Nine provincial unions have reportedly expressed “grave concerns” for the future of domestic New Zealand rugby in a letter to the NZRU obtained which was obtained by The Dominion Post newspaper.

The four-page letter airs the concerns of the Counties-Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Northland, Tasman, Southland, North Harbour, Taranaki, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay unions.

Those unions are concerned at the move towards an expanded Super Rugby season which will further devalue the provincial Air NZ Cup.

Interestingly the letter is not from the other Air NZ Cup unions that are Super 14 bases – Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago

Diminishing New Zealand crowds in this year’s Super 14 “clearly illustrates that Super Rugby is a tired concept,” the letter says.

It requests the NZRU extend the present Sanzar broadcasting agreement by just one year until the end of 2011, providing extra time to get the input and support of the provinces.

The original SANZAR broadcast deal was signed for 10 years but the most recent deal was signed for five years. It is expected that the next deal will also be for five years.

“The group is concerned that if NZRU dumb down the ANZC as reflected in the financial modeling produced to date then rugby in New Zealand, as we currently know it, will be stuffed by the 2019 World Cup,” the letter reportedly says according to NZPA.

The nine union chairmen are to meet the national board on Wednesday night to discuss their concerns, on the eve of the NZRU’s annual meeting in Wellington.

NZRU chairman Hobbs said many of the concerns in the letter are misplaced.

“We are not prepared to compromise our domestic competitions,” he said.

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