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The Most Blacks

Written By: - Date published: 10:36 am, April 30th, 2021 - 45 comments
Categories: privatisation, sport, uncategorized - Tags:

The New Zealand Rugby Union is currently in the process of selling its soul to the devil, in this case a private equity firm called Silver Lake.

This made me reflect on what the NZRU is selling.  Basically a stake in the game that has been a central part of New Zealand life for over a century.

I always liked the name.  The All Blacks.  It reflected our fledging cultural uniqueness better than any other name could.

And the haka, what a great way to start a game.

The first All Black haka was performed in 1905.  It is really cool that te Ao Maori has been an integral part of our most revered representative team for well over a century.

How did the sport evolve?  Every town, every suburb and every community formed a team that every Saturday in the winter went out and engaged in combat with other teams and then had a shower and a few beers and celebrated how great it was to live in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Large amounts of community resources were applied and Local Government was heavily involved.  Community owned space was set aside so that games could occur and funding for clubrooms and club operations was found from public budgets and generous benefactors.

And the best players were revered.  For most of the last century it was an amateur game.  But those who reached the pinnacle, think Colin Meads, Wilson Whineray, Bryan Williams, Brian Lohore, Sid Going, George Nepia … they were and still are national icons adored by everyone.

The community aspect has been lost.  Reliance on Television rights has played its part.  The visual aspect became more and more important and the tribal aspect of the contest was lost.  Club Rugby, that used to attract crowds in the tens of thousands, has degenerated to the stage that it was nothing more than a staging opportunity for potential gladiators to seek professional contracts.

And first fifteen rugby, a source of so much pride for a school community, became a contest of who could poach the best talent from our Pacific Island nations so they could earn bragging rights for their school.

So what exactly is New Zealand rugby selling?  Basically the collective efforts of many communities over decades the result of which created a pretty good representative rugby team.

And let us not delude ourselves.  The current (and previous) All Black rugby team relies heavily on our uber talented Pacific whanau.

New Zealand rugby over the past couple of decades has changed.  Grass roots rugby is on the decline.  It is no longer an integral part of community life.

Playing ranks are increasingly dominated by highly trained gladiators and others wanting to join their ranks.  Playing the game for the enjoyment of it seems to be lost.

All provincial unions have supported the sale.  The only group stopping a deal is the Player’s Union.  Details are not clear although Zoe George at Stuff has this description of their concerns:

Among other concerns raised by NZRPA, the players want guarantees the All Black jersey, silver fern, haka and other Māori and Pasifika cultural values intrinsic to the All Blacks brand aren’t sold off or culturally misappropriated.

They want NZR and the Māori rugby board to retain kaitiaki of the haka and other cultural taonga.

We are left with the situation where something born of our communities and nurtured and supported by our local and central governments is potentially being sold off to a US private equity firm.  Just so that television audiences can be entertained and profits made.

If the sale happens it will be a very dark day for New Zealand rugby.  The word “grassroots” will no longer be able to be applied to the national game.

45 comments on “The Most Blacks ”

  1. Gosman 1

    "So what exactly is New Zealand rugby selling? Basically the collective efforts of many communities over decades the result of which created a pretty good representative rugby team."

    The NZRFU is not selling anything beyond the use of the All Blacks for some commercial purposes. Given the fact the All Blacks are the main driver for the revenue for the game in the country utilising them to generate more revenue is not a terrible thing especially if some of that money will be directed towards the community game that you mentioned.

    I have asked you before and noticed you avoided answering – where else will the NZRFU get the revenue to sustain both the professional and community elements of the sport if they do not go down this route?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1

      NZRU had $100 mill in the bank at the start of Covid and now they are 'down' to $60 mill.

      They arent really returning much to provincial unions for their teams let alone local clubs – who see nothing.

      The NZRFU main interest outside the All Blacks is the Super Rugby and its funding of players salaries

    • Tricledrown 1.2

      Young players are having their teenage years wrecked by professional expectations for every player that makes it a 100 are injured for life.

      It becomes a dreay chore rather than a fun thing to do ,so more and more children are doing other sports that are not gladiatorial and demand all participants spare time.

      NZ's dominance in Rugby will come to an end kids prefer playing video games rather than getting smashed bashed and burned out.Now that 2 Pacific teams are going to be included in super rugby the Allblacks will have an even smaller talent base.

      Allblack players will play just for the Allblacks provincial and super rugby will miss out on that talent and skill weakening its appeal .smaller crowds turning out to see games . Club rugby won't see enough of the pie to survive.Young club rugby players can't afford time off work for injury,training ,playing or recovery.

      Others countries are doing far more to keep rugby growing like France which has 4 levels of professional rugby and the 5 th division is semi professional.

      They look after their players very well compared to NZ .Clubs are owned by very wealthy businessmen compared to our raffles, housie and cheese rolls sales.

      Junior levels are also looked after as well most clubs put on free food after the game for spectators as well.free transport to other games etc etc.

      France's healthcare system means injuries are treated quickly for much cheaper prices.

  2. Gareth Wilson 2

    Every town, every suburb and every community formed a team that every Saturday in the winter went out and engaged in combat with other teams and then had a shower and a few beers and celebrated how great it was to live in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    How many of these rugby players would have described their country as "Aotearoa New Zealand"?

  3. Incognito 3

    Playing the game for the enjoyment of it seems to be lost.

    Indeed, the estrangement or alienation caused by capitalism and corporatisation has turned players into commodities. In fact, the whole game is becoming a commodity.

  4. Thebiggestfish 4

    And yet you won’t support any government money for the all blacks to keep them 100% NZ Inc. The National game from the professionals right on through to the grassroots has a very real funding problem at the moment. Silver Lake seems to be a bit of a last resort to get the funding they need to prop up and reinvest into rebuilding the community and grassroots game.

    • mickysavage 4.1

      Huge amounts of public money go into supporting the sport. Do you know how much the land used for an Auckland rugby field is worth and how much is spent on maintaining it?

      • Ad 4.1.1

        That's true but it's local investment not central.

        Also most stadiums are public cash suck-holes.

        And the Super regional teams are privatised already.

        This is too big an entity to expect NZ is going to keep 100% control. And too late for any Fonterra-like legislation.

        It's as fickle an effort to keep private capital out of sport as it is to keep politics out of sport.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          It's as fickle an effort to keep private capital out of sport as it is to keep politics out of sport.

          Or to keep private capital out of politics, and vice versa in a 'joined up' world.

          Lobbying For Gain: Nick Warner And Australia’s Revolving Door
          Governments have an almost crippling trouble appreciating conflicts of interest. Since tentacle-heavy lobby groups decided to move into the world’s capitals to make the case for their clients, the revolving door has become the sickening feature of politics. Former bureaucrats, public service officials and elected representatives find few problems with joining the very lobby groups that once pressured them to change policy. This seamless movement of sewerage makes accountable governance a hag and transparency a bed-bound dream.

          Private Equity Smashes Its Campaign-Spending Record with 2020 Races
          Private equity has spent more on the 2020 political races than on any previous election, setting a new high for political donations at a time of fierce debate about greater regulation of the industry.

          Employees of private equity and other investment firms, excluding hedge funds, gave $132 million to candidates, parties, political-action committees and outside groups through Sept. 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that reports on money in politics. The data were released Oct. 16 by the Federal Election Commission.

          That sum is the most the industry has ever spent on an election cycle, exceeding the $117.4 million spent on 2016 races.


          • Ad

            New Zealand desperately needs private equity to expand their businesses beyond their tiny average size – in no small part because our savings rate is so shit.

            The All Blacks are one of our major businesses and have had woeful underinvestment for decades. The sponsorships are all going to run out.

            We don't need to see crap situations like Silver Ferns which was totally sold overseas because the locals wouldn't invest in it when they were asked, or Fonterra which is now about half its size of three years ago and our local farms resist any kind of investment structure after running it as a bulk supply business.

            The romance of nationalistic investment has a really poor recent record here.

            The All Blacks need to become a corporation in which we get a shot at investing. Anyone remember AirNZ A and B Class shares?

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              If 'we' sold only a 12.5% stake in what remains of NZ-owned ‘commerce‘ in order to stay afloat, then AOK. How long ’til the next offering, do you reckon?

              A commercial stake through the heart of NZ rugby, imho, but time will tell.

      • Visubversa 4.1.2

        And we know how much of the taxpayers' and ratepayers' $$$$$ have gone into Eden Park over the years. Into a privately owned entertainment venue which used to be a sports field.

        [I’ve changed the e-mail address; it was the wrong combination of approved user name + approved e-mail address]

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          Its not really 'privately owned' its a public entity – Eden Park Trust Board.

          But its a part publically funded entity which is controlled by the Cricket and Rugby bodies in Auckland with a bit of Auckland Council on the side.

  5. Ad 5

    I am glad they are selling a chunk off. The provincial teams need the support.

    I'd like to have seen NZSuper and ACC take a chunk of it as well – as they did for Kiwibank.

    Also NZRugby need the cash to keep those players sweet: it's still a fast route out of the working class for a lot of guys.

    But I do agree that it lost its' mojo for us collectively once it privatised the viewing rights. That should be something the new RNZ/TVNZ group should do.

    • millsy 5.1

      "But I do agree that it lost its' mojo for us collectively once it privatised the viewing rights."

      Yes, the game in NZ was privatised 25 years ago, when it went behind Sky's paywall.

    • lprent 5.2

      Personally I couldn't care less.

      My interest in rugby, league, cricket, and most sports dissipates when I stop doing them. Being a couch potato wasting time watching others performing at a stadium or in front of a TV seems stupid.

    • Enough is Enough 5.3

      I tend to agree with you.

      The Provincial Unions have unanimously approved this investment. The memebers of each Provincial Unions are the clubs and grass roots organisations that MS speaks of. This isn't just a bunch of suits in Wellington selling off the crown jewells. It is for the benfeit of, and has therfore been approved by the grass roots.

      The overpaid professional players are having a tantrum and holding things up.

      It would be a disaster if the wealthy all blacks sink a deal that benefits the amateur side of the game.

      • tc 5.3.1

        It's the overpaid top end transformation of sport over the last few decades.

        Sees grassroots, provincial, lower levels suffer. Football in the UK's been on that slide since matchday revenue sharing ceased in 1982.

        Premier league comes along 10 years later to make matters worse with exclusive tv deals.

        Then 30 years and a pandemic later the big clubs don’t need crowds as tv/merch etc is worth more. Superleague is as inevitable as the greed is palpable.

        • mickysavage

          Yep UK soccer and NZ rugby have disturbing similarities. Apart from the fact that the English soccer team has sucked for a long time …

        • Enough is Enough


          Are you comparing fully professional and corporate English Football clubs to amateur grass roots New Zealand rugby clubs run solely by volunteers.

          Other than both coming under the umbrella of sport, there isn't anything remotley similar between the two groups.

          • Incognito

            Use your imagination and a little bit of cynicism and negativity; it works a treat for some other commenters here.

        • tc

          They sure do. UEFA's found a few mill down back of a sofa for them and the ESL goes on the backburner as none have officially resigned.

          Interesting times

      • ghostwhowalksnz 5.3.3

        "It is for the benfeit of, and has therfore been approved by the grass roots."

        Once the 12.5% comes off the NZRU revenue – not profits ,there will little to no money left from NZRU 'profits' for the provinces own teams let alone the club sides.

        The money paid to provincial unions now is just a pre funding of what they would have got from NZRU over the next 10 years anyway.

        The money will spent by the provinces in 5 years anyway but the revenue diverted to Silverlake goes on forever

  6. In Vino 6

    Silver Lake exist to make a profit – not to give charity to the All Blacks.

    How can we be sure that in the long term they will not find a way to take far more out of NZ Rugby than the short-term gain NZR are making from this long-term sale?

    • Ad 6.1

      Find a local investor who will make a better offer.

      • Incognito 6.1.1


        Oops, you already suggested that!

        • mac1

          Instead of investing in Kiwi rocket companies which put US military hardware in space, ACC could invest in NZ rugby and maybe have some influence on head and other injuries.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          ACC wont be doing that as they are passive investors , Silverlake is likely to tie up the match schedule and sponsorships to suit its other 'sports' interests

          • Incognito

            Well, either we don’t give a shit about the commodification of the ABs and simultaneously of our culture and history or some of us won’t become multi-millionaires.

            • millsy

              Oh we stopped giving a shit about the commodification of anything in this country years ago,

              • Incognito

                Yes, and it shows.

                • ghostwhowalksnz

                  Different generation

                  These guys now at elite rugby levels want to be commodified, their worth is the big contract.

                  Silverlake wants to be like mafia casino boss, taking its share of the revenue off the top- without even knowing the difference between a forward or a back

      • In Vino 6.1.2

        My fear is that this offer may turn out worse than none at all. OK? That would be in line with many of the policies we have foolishly pursued since the 1980s.

        The starving of Grass Roots is a direct result of past NZR policies. Maybe NZR need to look at fixing that, rather than extending the error of current policies.

  7. cathy-o 7

    When they've finished off your forwards and your backs are wearing thin

    And the second spell's half over and you've forty points to win

    And this hulking wing three quarter's got his teeth stuck in your shin

    Well don't worry mate, she'll be right.

    She'll be right mate, she'll be right

    Don't worry mate, she'll be right

    You don't worry who's the loser

    When you meet them down the boozer

    So Don't worry mate, she'll be right

    • mac1 7.2

      It's where the wife put the footy socks is the problem……..

      When you've had yer copper goin', and you've boiled a ton'a hops, And you've brewed your brew and bottled 'er and hammered on the tops, And your missus keeps on askin' where y' left your footie socks, Well don't worry mate, she'll be right…. Shove a shot o' metho in and you can call it Kiwi gin… And don't worry mate, she'll be right.

  8. Pat 8

    It matters not….the game is in decline regardless and this (or any) deal will only temporarily solve the financial position just as the AIG and Adidas deals did…a few million to the provincial unions only pays their current overdrafts.

    • millsy 8.1

      Yes, this is exactly what I have been thinking.

      These promises have been thrown around since 1994 when Steinlager put their name on the black jersey.

  9. The "All Blacks" are television fodder. I just wish our media scribes, voices/ faces and alleged editors realise that most nzer,s do not care about the abs.

    they are not worth front page headlines, they are not worth leading reports on our national radio station, let alone a lead intro on tv. Sigh.

    We gave up hollywood gossip columns decades ago. It is long overdue we give up ab adulation of the ab,s.

    Rugby, in this country, at a community, regional level matters to the communities. I just hope a lot of this corporate trading profit gets to the communities.

    In fact nearly all of so called "sports reporting" is nothing else but free publicity.

  10. mosa 10

    " How did the sport evolve? Every town, every suburb and every community formed a team that every Saturday in the winter went out and engaged in combat with other teams and then had a shower and a few beers and celebrated how great it was to live in Aotearoa New Zealand "
    If you are going to extol the game of ” rugby ” then learn your history rather than taking the easy way out !!!

    Only if you were a " rugby player " not a working class league player that the real Labour party that supported rugby " league " over it's class based football game of rugby.

    Many aspiring rugby players wanted to switch codes to league but were threatened from doing so because " rugby " was financially supported by the elite groups in New Zealand who actively discouraged any man from playing " league "

    Mickey take your rose coloured rugby glasses of and research your " LABOUR party history on this subject !!

    You need to be saved from your neo liberal disease !

    • Incognito 10.1

      Apologies, I noticed that your comments went straight to Trash and I have rectified the problem, as you can see now. If you wish you can re-submit your other comment to the post on Seymour.

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