Rugby World Cup 2011
All Blacks threaten to withdraw from RWC'15
ESPNscrum Staff
September 27, 2011
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew presents the union's accounts, New Zealand Rugby Union Annual General Meeting, NZRU HQ, Wellington, New Zealand, April 22, 2010
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew is adamant that the IRB has to look at the costs involved in competing in the RWC © Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew has warned that the All Blacks might not be able to afford to compete in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

According to Tew, the tournament has become too costly for major unions. The NZRU chief claims that participation in the current event is to set his union back NZ$13m (£7m) - and this in spite of the fact that the Kiwis have the benefit of home advantage.

Consequently, Tew believes that the International Rugby Board (IRB) needs to address the apparently spiralling costs involved in competing in the game's showpiece event.

"We think we are at a really important juncture," he said. "We want a couple of things taken very seriously around the IRB table. One is the money that flows through and out of Rugby World Cup. It is well publicised that the major unions lose a significant amount of money net by participating in the tournament and that makes absolutely no sense.

"We lose NZ$13.2m [£6.7m] worth of revenue after income from Rugby World Cup and costs are adjusted. It cannot carry on. We said at the last board conference that we needed a full review of the IRB's financial model, Rugby World Cup commercial rules and RWC money flows. We are waiting with some anxiety what the IRB are going to do about it.

"The IRB did put an extra £1m on the table for the major unions six months ago which helped and which was appreciated, but frankly the prospects of us going to England in 2015 under the current model are very slim. We cannot continue to sign on for an event that costs us so much money.

"We need to have serious discussions and some creative thinking to help us approach the next World Cup in a positive manner. I am not saying we will not be involved in 2015, but you either reform things through an evolutionary process or you plant a dag in the ground and say it's time to change."

In particular, Tew feels that unions are being unfairly handicapped by the statute which prohibits teams from having association with their respective sponsors during the World Cup, a rule put in place to avoid a potential conflict of interests with the tournament's sponsors.

"The World Cup issues are multifaceted," he said. "The commercial rules for the tournament for participating unions are, we believe, far too tough, much tougher than Fifa's. If this was a soccer World Cup, the All Blacks' hotel would be decked out with our sponsors until Thursday (before a Saturday game). In a Rugby World Cup, our sponsors do not get a look-in. They are very excluded.

"All we want is what is best for world rugby. New Zealand and Australia tend to have to bang the table pretty hard at times to get people to listen. Our approach has always been to do things by negotiation and discussion and try to reach collaborative decisions, but ultimately you have to get something."

However, the IRB was quick to defend the World Cup's financial requirements and regulations, insisting that the tournament is set up in such a way to benefit all of its member unions.

"The World Cup plays a critical role in the development and profile of rugby worldwide," a spokesman told The Guardian. "It generates the revenues that are entirely reinvested and distributed by the board across our 117 member unions during the four-year cycle between tournaments to increase competitiveness and advance the strategic goal of implementing development plans in order that rugby can be a truly global sport.

"The current programme is £150m between 2009 and 2012 with approximately 50% of the revenues going to the tier-one nations. There are significant benefits for participation at rugby's showcase sport, including brand exposure to a broadcast audience in more than 200 countries worldwide.

"There are also huge benefits of hosting, ranging from stadia upgrades to participation increases. We will continue to work with our unions to ensure that the tournament continues to balance the strategic needs of our unions with the global development of the sport."

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