The key areas of focus of the review into New Zealand's Super Rugby future model have been outlined by New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
The three-month review, known as Aratipu (growth, regeneration, invigoration), was overseen by the Chairs of the five Super Rugby clubs, provincial and private investor representatives as well as NZR Chair Brent Impey and CEO Mark Robinson. New Zealand's 26 provincial unions also fed into the review and it was presented to the NZR Board yesterday.
NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said the NZR Board had approved a number of key recommendations aimed at establishing a new competition in 2021 that "fans would love, that was competitive on the field, that players wanted to play in and that drove commercial growth that could be reinvested back into our game."
"Coming on the back of Covid-19 and its impact on future competions, the NZR Board has committed to establishing a new professional team competition in 2021. We have also been heartened by the success of Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa.
"The focus is now on confirming the licenses for New Zealand's five current Super Rugby clubs and that work is now underway. We have highly valued the partnership of these five clubs over the last 25 years of the competition and want that to continue," he said.
"As well, there is a huge desire to have a Pasifika team involved which we think will be massive for the competition, popular with fans and is a priority for us. As we know, our Pacific nations and Pasifika players in New Zealand have added so much to the rich history of rugby in Oceania and our game here in New Zealand. To have a team that would provide an additional pathway for Pasifika players to perform on the world stage would be hugely exciting," Robinson said.
"As well, we will also be working with Rugby Australia to seek expressions of interest from their current Super clubs and other interested parties to join the competition and that work will begin in earnest. We are excited and interested to see what our Australian neighbours will bring to this competition," he added.
Robinson said criteria would be developed as part of the expressions of interest (EOI) process and added the Board hadn't settled on what the ideal number of teams in the new competition would be but hoped to have between eight and ten teams involved. The EOI process will begin next week and NZR hopes to have it completed by the end of next month.
We want teams that are competitive and that fans will want to watch go head to head, week in, week out.
Robinson said NZR would also be consulting with SANZAAR as part of the ongoing work on establishing the competition.
The Aratipu report also contains recommendations relating to fan engagement, the high-performance player pathway and financial sustainability of clubs. Robinson said NZR would now work closely with provincial unions and Super clubs on how any changes would be implemented to ensure that rugby can continue to grow and build on the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.