Mains supports NZRU criticism of IRB limitations

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains supports the New Zealand Rugby Union's criticism of commercial restrictions at the World Cup which have sparked threats of withdrawing from the 2015 event.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew says competing in the World Cup will cost his union NZ$13.2 million ($10.4 million), numbers that are making them consider not playing in the 2015 World Cup unless the International Rugby Board changes its commercial rules.

British newspaper The Guardian said the IRB will announce a review of its World Cup financial model next May.

Mains has told New Zealand's Radio Sport the IRB rules make little sense.

"Why should your major stars be in a debt situation to make money for somebody else? It doesn't really make any sense," Mains said. "That's a simplistic way of looking at it, but there's a whole financial model around rugby, particularly in this country, that is struggling.

"But on the world stage, the All Blacks are the No. 1 attraction and Steve Tew has got a very relevant point."

Tew said IRB restrictions around the tournament were too prohibitive, as incoming tours were postponed beforehand and the union's sponsors barred during the event.

He said the NZRU was at a "really important juncture" because the financial losses couldn't be sustained.

"We lose $13.2 million worth of revenue after income from Rugby World Cup and costs are adjusted. It cannot carry on," Tew said in The Guardian.

"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 1 million pounds 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."

World Cup rules prevented individual unions from working with their sponsors to generate income for developing rugby in lower-tier nations, but Tew said there was a need for "creative thinking" for the 2015 Cup.

"I am not saying we will not be involved in 2015, but you either reform things through an evolutionary process or you plant a flag in the ground and say it's time to change.

"The World Cup issues are multifaceted. 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 weekend match). 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."

Tew's comments were "very fair and honest," Mains said.

"I think the IRB has a responsibility to listen to those major unions because they are actually what make the World Cup tick. It's not your minnows, who are getting all the money, that make it tick — it is the big five."

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