ZB

D-day for crucial Silver Lake decision revealed

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 11 May 2022, 2:42pm
All Blacks players in a huddle following a clash against the Springboks. (Photo / Getty)
All Blacks players in a huddle following a clash against the Springboks. (Photo / Getty)

D-day for crucial Silver Lake decision revealed

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 11 May 2022, 2:42pm

D-day has been revealed for one of the most significant votes in the history of New Zealand Rugby.

NZR will hold a Special General Meeting in Auckland on Thursday June 2 to allow members to vote on the motion for approval of the Project Future investment proposal with Silver Lake, it was announced today.

Frustrated provincial unions had previously tabled a series of conditions before any agreement on the $200 million Silver Lake deal can be reached.

A vote from the 26 provincial unions on the proposed five per cent sale of NZR's commercial assets was initially planned for the Annual General Meeting in Wellington on April 28 but was delayed.

The Herald understands while NZ Rugby and the provincial unions have agreed a 75 per cent threshold must be reached for the deal with the US investment firm to proceed, the vote delay signals the ongoing power struggle between the provinces and the Players' Association.

Three key stipulations have been put to NZ Rugby by the provincial unions.

These include:

* The requested independent governance review to encompass all of rugby, including the Players' Association

* A provincial union elected representative on the commercial co board – one to match the Players' Association

* A 'fairer' slice of the revenue pie that protects and futureproofs the grassroots community game

As the deal stands, the provincial unions would receive an immediate $20m cash injection, with a further $7m shared among grassroots clubs.

The players would receive $5m immediately, but it is the perception of whether the long-term distribution is fair that continues to delay an agreement.

At present the collective agreement entitles the professional players to 36.5 per cent of NZR's revenue, while the provincial unions receive around a 17 per cent share.

In last year's Covid-impact climate the provinces acquired $29m, with that figure rising to around $40m this year.

Long-term the players stand to significantly benefit from any further revenue uplift in NZ Rugby's potential Silver Lake partnership. The provinces are not requesting any more funding upfront, but they are pushing for assurances that the community game will be properly insulated.

As the deal once more grinds to a halt, anti-Players' Association sentiment echoes from the provinces over the way the Silver Lake proposal has been reshaped.

Last April the provinces unanimously signed off a 12.5 sale stake to Silver Lake for $387.5m but that failed to gain Players' Association support.

Ultimately, the latest standoff in the long-running saga leaves the deal at risk, with no firm date on when a Special General Meeting vote may take place.

Despite a report from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers largely backing the latest deal, NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson is again caught in the middle of competing interests.

"Discussions have been progressing positively with our members since they were presented with the PWC report last month, but they have asked for more time to discuss some key areas of the overall deal structure and we understand that request. We want to ensure members have all the details before ultimately seeking their approval," Robinson said in a statement on Thursday.

"We are hopeful this delay will not be a long one, and that we can facilitate a Special General Meeting in coming weeks to finalise the Project Future investment proposal and move forward with our intended plans. As we have said before, we want to get this right and to do that we are willing to afford our members as much time as possible to be comfortable with our proposal, given its significance and importance to rugby."