World Cup - IRB fends off All Black boycott threat

Wed, 28 Sep 06:14:00 2011

The International Rugby Board has said it was already committed to addressing the financial concerns over the World Cup that have led to an unlikely threat from the All Blacks to boycott the 2015 tournament in England.

New Zealand All Blacks players perform the Haka before their Rugby World Cup Pool A match against France at Eden Park in Auckland - 0

While the All Blacks were concentrating on trying to win the competition for the first time in 24 years, the head of the New Zealand Rugby Union Steve Tew claimed that they could boycott the 2015 event because the World Cup's current rules mean they lose too much money.

Tew said that competing at the current tournament would cost the NZRU more than NZ$13 million because IRB rules forced the curtailment of regular Test schedules such as the Tri-Nations and November internationals in Europe, and prevented teams showcasing their regular sponsors.

"It's putting pressure on the balance sheet and frankly, in the current environment, we just can't afford to run a World Cup-year loss, nor do we think it's necessary," Tew told New Zealand radio.

Having earlier told reporters that the prospects of New Zealand competing in 2015 were "very slim", he said there would be more discussions.

"(Boycotting's) obviously a last resort and our style is to be consultative, collaborative and to try to work with everybody to find a solution," he said when asked about the boycott.

"We have the support of most of the major unions and a review is not only necessary but now, in our view, quite urgent."

The IRB responded by saying that very review was set to take place after the current tournament, as previously announced in May.

"The IRB is already driving forward that process and is committed to working in collaboration with member Unions to ensure that it continues to balance the strategic needs of Unions with the ability to provide the IRB with the financial platform for the development of a sport that has witnessed an 18 percent growth in participation since the last World Cup," the IRB said in a statement.

"All tournament commercial revenues are re-invested by the IRB across its 117 member Unions during the four-year cycle between tournaments to increase competitiveness and advance development in order that rugby can be a truly global sport.

"The current investment programme is £150 million between 2009 and 2012, with over 50 per cent of the funding invested in Tier One Unions."

New Zealand, who were stripped of co-hosting rights of the 2003 World Cup after refusing to follow the IRB's rules about ground advertising, are by no means alone in losing money during a World Cup, as the absence of the November internationals costs the European unions millions in lost revenues.

Many would argue that that is a reasonable price to pay for the richest and most dominant unions in a sport that has always been dominated by a tiny handful of nations.

Reuters

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account