Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

Explained: All you need to know about NZ Rugby's civil war

Gregor Paul,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 May 2024, 3:12pm
An important meeting is coming for New Zealand Rugby. Photo / Mark Mitchell
An important meeting is coming for New Zealand Rugby. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Explained: All you need to know about NZ Rugby's civil war

Gregor Paul,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 May 2024, 3:12pm

On Thursday, New Zealand Rugby will hold a special general meeting (SGM), to vote on their governance structure, in response to last year’s Pilkington Review, which found its current model not fit for purpose.

In short, this SGM looms as the most important meeting of its kind in the game’s professional history in New Zealand.

Here’s everything you need to know, before Thursday’s crucial vote.

Who are the sides in this civil war? And what do they want?

The NZRPA, most of the NZR board (seven of the nine directors), Super Rugby clubs, New Zealand Rugby Commercial, New Zealand Māori Rugby Board and some provincial unions (Taranaki and Manawatū and possibly more) are supporting what is called the review proposal.

What they want is a nine-person board of independent directors – and by independent they don’t mean people who don’t know rugby, they mean people not affiliated to one stakeholder – appointed by a truly independent panel.

They believe this will lead to better decision-making at all levels of the game and enable rugby to start fixing many of its problems around participation, fan engagement, elite pathways and financial management.

On the other side, there is a cohort of provincial unions led by Auckland, North Harbour, Wellington, Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay, Northland and Bay of Plenty – who say they want the same thing, but with the exception that at least three of the nine directors must have at least three years’ experience serving on a provincial board. This is what’s been referred to as Proposal 2.

Are the RPA and NZR on the same side? I thought they were at war over Silver Lake?

NZR and RPA are both supporting the review proposal – and so, yes, they are on the same side. It was, however, the conflict which erupted over the way the initial Silver Lake was handled which led to the Pilkington Review being commissioned and NZR’s governance being put under scrutiny.

When the Silver Lake talks reached a stalemate over the initial deal in June 2021, the RPA said it would only be willing to negotiate a new agreement on the condition NZR agreed to an independent review of its governance.

Who are the people involved?

Rob Nichol is the CEO of the RPA and former All Blacks captain David Kirk is the chairman.

Dame Patsy Reddy, as chairwoman, has driven the process for NZR and been publicly supported by board members Rowena Davenport and Catherine Savage. Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who is now an NZRC board member has publicly supported the review proposal while NZRC chairman Ian Narev has also told the unions he and his organisation support the review proposal.

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty Images
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty Images

Dame Farah Palmer has led discussion on behalf of New Zealand Māori Rugby Board and Wellington chair Russell Poole has been the lead spokesperson for the unions supporting Proposal 2.

Blues chairman Don McKinnon has co-ordinated the Super Rugby clubs’ response.

Will there be a players’ strike? Is there any chance that players won’t be willing to appear for the All Blacks?

The players have no intention of striking at this stage. They will meet all their playing and off-field commitments as per usual, and that includes playing in the NPC.

What happens on Thursday?

There are 90 votes to be cast by secret ballot. Each union has two to seven votes depending on the number of registered teams they have (aged 13+).

They will first vote yes/no to the review proposal. Even if it gains a two-thirds majority, they will still vote on Proposal 2.

If Proposal 2 gains a majority it will prevail, even if the review proposal also gained a majority.

If neither proposal wins a majority, they may repeat the vote to see if they can get a majority.

The vote is scheduled for 9.30am. Reddy won’t be there as she will be in Japan on a long-arranged holiday.

President Max Spence will run proceedings and results are expected to be made public at 10.30am.

What happens after the vote?

If Proposal 2 is successful, the unions will have three months to implement Proposal 2 – write it into the constitution and appoint the new board.

The existing board will be asked to stand down if either proposal is adopted, but they will be encouraged to reapply through whichever process prevails.

If neither proposal passes, the provincial unions say they will roll the board and put all governance review work on hold.

The RPA says that a vote for Proposal 2 or a continuation of the status quo will see it use its collective employment agreement to set up a new entity to manage the professional game. They are in the midst of collective bargaining now so this could be done within weeks.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you