“Great opportunity to redefine the Sport” – Mark Robinson

"Great opportunity to redefine the Sport" - Mark Robinson

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has received the independent findings from the consulting firm tasked earlier this year with undertaking a Review of Rugby. CEO Mark Robinson has spoken highly of the opportunity that now exists to ‘redefine the Sport’.

He said, in an NZR media release, “This is an important opportunity to stand back, look at the needs across all levels of rugby. From community to elite, and ensure we have the right priorities in place to keep boys, girls, men, and women in New Zealand continuing to have a lifelong love of the game.”

This week, the recently appointed Chief Executive begins a process of engaging with the game’s stakeholders. He has inherited an organization that operates in five-year brackets. And with the next period approaching, the choice to employ an independent agency to look inwardly was seen first by some, as off-handish. Yet the aim of the process is wider than anyone individual’s viewpoint.

Like other unions have done, the external input can provide key findings that may not be seen. This could be efficiencies across regions, an awareness of existing and new opportunities, as well as data that may have been missed by previous management.

The Governance Group, acting on behalf of New Zealand’s 26 Provincial Unions, five Super Rugby clubs and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) stakeholders must now share the report’s findings, including key points [see below]. This is before all union delegates and the NZR board make decisions on its implementation.

“Great opportunity to redefine the Sport” – Mark Robinson

In speaking with media soon after the findings were released a week ago, Mark Robinson has been at pains to accept that the sport still has plenty to celebrate. Even while such a contracted examination of the different sectors of the sports operations was bound to find ‘room for improvement’ it is not a fait accompli.

Club rugby and Secondary School Game On initiative to be introduced
Children from Redoubt North School are shown some basic rugby skills and fitness training during the New Zealand Black Ferns visit to Redoubt North School. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Robinson remarked, “We know that rugby in our regions has a rich and proud history and we want to maintain that connection. No decisions have been made.

“This next phase is about consultation and for rugby to determine which path we think is best for the game’s future.”

There are five potential areas in the Review that outline how this can be achieved:

  • High-Performance Pathway
  • Expenditure Optimisation
  • Resourcing across Rugby
  • Domestic Competitions
  • Revenue Growth Opportunities

Consultation will commence immediately, and take place during early March through a number of workshops. These will involve Provincial Unions, Super Rugby Clubs, NZR staff and other stakeholders.

Rugby reviews occurring across the Globe

Even as NZR chief executive speaks on RadioSport of it being a “great opportunity to redefine the Sport” his organization is not the only one undertaking these types of reviews. Across the globe, unions are examining the current model, asking what can be improved or redefined.

This has occurred in England, Wales, South Africa, and Australia. The majority of Tier One nations all understanding that modernization, and the changing times of men’s and women’s sport must be recognized. To conduct internal research of governance yet, to consider wider operational change and goals, and how that might impact on all levels of the game.

From high-performance to the backyard, and through all rugby development grades.

Many have instigated programs of change; some with success, others still accomodating those changes. Australia, for example, is still going through a range of changes that have not seen a positive buy-in from the public.

This is where Mark Robinson must place a lot of emphases. The club rugby arena is vastly different to that of a Super Rugby franchise ‘business model’. So whether the five main findings can be accepted across the board, will be a test of his management style.

Growing and sustaining the game is a statement distributed widely. Although, it must still be a game that the public enjoys and is a strong part of the community. For New Zealand Rugby, the positive outcomes may not only occur on the budget sheet. Earnings and revenue aside, an annual $20-30 million investment can only be balanced on the continued interest in playing the sport. In watching it, and [especially] in participating in it.


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