Steven Kempton: NZRU should buy a UK club team

In a comment to my post about My Football Club, Steven Kempton (a.k.a. The Asia Pacific Headhunter) makes an excellent suggestion:

“I’d prefer NZ did something to try and buy a rugby club in the UK. I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen for years that it’s in the NZRU’s best interests to try and purchase a UK club to extend the AB’s brand and also to give the players an option to play overseas but return, same with coaches. You’re in Wellington Rowan, walk down the road and give Jock Hobbs a word for me…”

Interesting idea! The NZRU model is to contract all players to the national union. This makes for clear priorities: All Blacks, Super 14, then NPC (there is a bit of confusion where the Sevens team fits into this, but I’ll overlook that for now). The European model is quite different. They seem to prefer a football-style setup, where the best players from all over the world are contracted to the European club sides (at massive salaries) and only “released” to play for their national teams at the clubs leisure. As a consequence they are more than happy to pay top dollar/pound to contract the best players from NZ, and really don’t care that the NZRU policy means that these players are then not available for international selection. And it means that international sides that tour NZ in their off-season are often missing many of the top players. One thing is for sure: we don’t have much influence sitting down here and trying to tell them what we think they should do. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! There is lots to like about Steven suggestion:

  • It would diversify the NZRU revenues, and give them direct exposure to the lucrative European market
  • It would provide a logical option to players and coaches who want to live and play in Europe
  • It would give the NZRU a seat at the table in the arm wrestle between clubs and national unions in Europe
  • It would give the thousands of kiwis living in the UK a team to support and a reason to care about the club competitions (I struggled to get excited about this when I was living there)
  • It would provide a hedge against the possibility that the clubs do take control of the game in Europe and severely diminish the appeal of international games outside of the World Cup
  • It would go down like a cup of warm vomit with the RFU and IRB (this reason alone is justification in my opinion)

So, you tell me: why couldn’t this happen? Mr. Hobbs?

5 thoughts on “Steven Kempton: NZRU should buy a UK club team”

  1. London New Zealand RFC (http://www.lnzrugby.co.uk/index.html)is there already if you were looking for a New Zealand branded club to support (just like London Irish, London Welsh, London Scottish, London Nigerians, London Cornish etc rugby clubs). Not sure what grade LNZ play now but trying to play your way (through promotion)up the grades to Premier League takes years.

    Promo/relegation agreement between Premier Rugby Ltd and RFU agreement is in place until 2009 and who knows what will happen then, lots of options including a complete split from RFU and an NFL like franchise based organisation.

    It’s a pretty exclusive club(pardon the pun)of owners but just like pro teams all over if you have the cash there’s no reason why you can’t buy a team.

    Ability to offer positions to NZers is limited by all of the red tape around player eligibility and limits on overseas imports that EU regulations and Premier Rugby impose.

    But you are right, it is probably a good time for someone to take a stake in a UK Premier rugby club.

  2. It’s a great idea I reckon, but I don’t know if we should actually own it. I suspect that most pro rugby clubs in the UK don’t actually make much money (this is the case in the NRL where most clubs rely on grants and pokie machines to survive)

    But they could totally partner with a club over there.

    The same idea could apply to Rugby League. There are a ton of kiwi league players over there, who face the same issues as the rugby guys of not getting released etc.

  3. If the AB’s played a few “exhibition games” against their own UK club (or others at their ground) and did their training runs there on their end of year Euro tours I think that alone would make a bit of money. The English make a killing everytime the AB’s run out on to Twickenham. This would be a way for the AB’s to to get a piece of that. I’m betting that a bunch of the UK club sides would love to host the AB’s and owning the club side would allow that to happen.

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