The East Terrace
New Zealand strive for financial security
November 6, 2009
Richie McCaw does his bit to meet the escalating costs of hosting Rugby World Cup 2011 © The East Terrace
The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and the New Zealand government are taking dramatic steps to ensure their holding of the 2011 Rugby World Cup is deemed a success and avoids becoming a financial disaster.
The revealed 'action plan' has been put together in light of the gloomy economic predictions regarding the potential losses of Rugby New Zealand 2011 Limited (RNZ 2011).
RNZ 2011 boss Martin Snedden is budgeting for a loss of around NZ$40million from the sport's showpiece and the figures are a major embarrassment to both the IRB and NZRU in light of the fact previous tournaments have grossed massive amounts of money for event organisers.
The most shocking part of the 'action plan' from the NZRU is that players on this Autumn's European tour are being asked to beg and busk during their spare time to help raise extra funds. Coach Graham Henry has confirmed that he has related to his players that they will be expected to put in a lot of hours 'off the paddock' in helping their country to achieve some level of financial stability.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," said Henry. "Being an All Black is more than just playing a bit of football on a weekend. It's about representing your country at all times and doing all you can to help the nation. You need to make sacrifices. Sometimes that sacrifice involves finding that extra bit of air in your lungs in the 79th minute of a tough Test match. Sometimes it's making that tackle and putting your body on the line.
"Sometimes it's about taking a shoeing at the bottom of a ruck to protect a crucial ball. At the moment it is about hanging around on some street corner after a hard training session and asking passers by if they have any spare change and sending that spare change back home to the NZRFU. They say inches can win matches, well pennies can save World Cups."
New Zealand coaching staff have confirmed that all players and managers are expected to spend at least twelve hours a week 'on the street' working hard to raise funds to help ensure the NZRU and the New Zealand government are left as little out of pocket as possible. All players are expected to, at a minimum, beg, but if they have any musical or entertainment skills they are advised to consider doing a little busking.
"I've heard one of our props does a mean Dave Dobbyns routine," said Henry. "We expect all our players to give 110% whether it is on the field, in the meeting room, in the gym or on a street corner in Cardiff at 3am on a Sunday morning. It's time players got out of the comfort zone and sang for their supper. This economic downturn has affected all of us, professional athletes included."
The action plan extends beyond simply asking the players to raise money on the street and also includes New Zealand players being asked to be available for 'any and every' task or request made by the team's commercial partners.
It is also believed that some unusual product placement deals with major corporations have been put into place for the 2009 European tour. The most unusual one is that no player is allowed to score a try without first making airplane type arm movements to advertise sponsors Air New Zealand. Furthermore, all players are expected to be seen with a slice of Domino's new triple cheese cream pizza in their hand on at least two occasions during any one match of the tour. Both deals are believed to be worth tens of thousands of vital dollars to New Zealand rugby.
New Zealand coaching staff have already begun to incorporate pizza handling into all their set-piece training in the build up to this weekend's Welsh match in Cardiff.
The decision to give the 2011 Rugby World Cup was a hugely controversial one and seen as highly conservative by many who thought the tournament should have gone to Japan (who have since been awarded the right to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup).
The lack of major stadiums and suitable transport and accommodation infrastructures were cited by critics as major reasons for the World Cup to not be given to New Zealand. The latest financial forecasts will be seen by many as vindication of their views that the event should have gone elsewhere.
"We have to step up the plate," said Kiwi captain Richie McCaw. "Many players in this squad have proven they have what it takes on the field of play to make New Zealand proud. But do we have what it takes to raise nearly forty million New Zealand dollars in spare change standing on a street corner with an empty McDonalds cup in their hand? This is where we find out.
"By the way, do you have any spare change? Just a few pence? Anything?"
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world