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New Zealand Rugby
NZRU overhaul payment, Cup format
Scrum.com
December 17, 2009
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew talks to the media, All Blacks press conference following the retirement of Jerry Collins, NZRU headquarters, Wellington, New Zealand, May 27, 2008
Steve Tew has announced changes to the Air New Zealand Cup © Getty Images
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The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has agreed terms with New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) that will lead to a new payment system for provincial players and a promotion/relegation format for the Air New Zealand Cup.

The new arrangements include an adjusted player payment pool which introduces franchise contracting at Super Rugby and NZRU level and a reduced salary cap at provincial level, effectively saving the small provincial teams from paying All Blacks who rarely turn out in their colours.

The Air NZ Cup, which has narrowly avoided being cut to a 10-team competition, will retain its 2009 format for next year, but in 2011 a new structure will see the 14 teams split into two divisions of seven, based on their on-field finishing positions in 2010.

The top seven teams will form the Premiership and the bottom seven teams the Championship. Teams will play all other teams in their division plus four other teams from the other division, with those selected by an "innovative" new process that will be revealed early next year.

The winner of the Championship will receive automatic promotion to the Premiership, replacing the seventh placed team in the Premiership, which will be relegated to the Championship.

The semi-finals will be removed and mid-week games added in 2011, when the Rugby World Cup hits New Zealand shores.

The provincial union salary cap will now no longer include notional values, but discounts for All Blacks, veteran players and injuries will continue. The level of the new salary cap will be set at the lesser of NZ$1.35 million or 36 percent of a province's commercial revenue based on prior years. This is a reduction on the current cap of NZ$2.2 million, which included notional values.

The maximum a province can pay an individual player will be capped at $60,000, with the exception of two marquee players, who will be capped at $90,000.

A wider NZRU player payment pool will exist, made up by 36 percent of player-generated revenues, plus any extra earnings over NZ$24 million the five Super Rugby franchises bring in from 2011.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the conclusion of a new agreement before the end of the year was a significant milestone and also provided certainty around the structure of domestic competitions.

"Among our key goals for this year were to provide certainty around our competitions both at the domestic level and within Sanzar and complete a new collective agreement. The settlement terms represent a significant step forward for professional rugby in this country and reflect the strength of the relationship we have with our professional players," Tew said.

Players' Association chief executive Rob Nichol said players were "rapt" they have been able to reach a provisional agreement on the key terms underpinning the collective agreement.

"The events of the past several months and challenges faced by rugby during this time presented some very real and difficult issues that we had to deal with during this negotiation process. We are proud of the fact that we have dealt with those issues and pleased with the results we have all managed to produce for rugby, first and foremost, and for our members."

Nichol said the new structure would provide an "exciting and dynamic" competition.

"Every game will have significant tension and meaning, will be highly competitive and provide a fantastic platform for the players to demonstrate their ability and skills and push for higher honours. The players will love it."

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