Re­gions rel­e­gated to cheap seats

Test al­lo­ca­tion jug­gles rev­enue with shar­ing games around the coun­try

Weekend Herald - - RUGBY - Rugby Liam Napier

Al­lo­cat­ing All Blacks tests is an emo­tive topic that comes into full view when Auck­land hosts its fourth of the year tonight.

North Shore res­i­dents may beg to dif­fer but, for the rest of the coun­try, the All Blacks in Al­bany sim­ply means an­other test for New Zealand’s largest city while oth­ers miss out.

Not just any test, ei­ther. A ma­jor draw­card in the Spring­boks.

South Africa’s ar­rival fol­lows two trea­sured Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons tests and a romp against Samoa at Eden Park.

New Zealand Rugby chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Tew says tests are dis­trib­uted on the premise that the All Blacks should be ac­ces­si­ble to as many New Zealan­ders as pos­si­ble. This is bal­anced with the need to gen­er­ate rev­enue to fund all lev­els of the game.

“There has to be a fi­nan­cial over­lay to the in­spire and unify goal we have for rugby in this na­tion,” Tew said.

QBE Sta­dium, with a 25,000 ca­pac­ity, has been push­ing hard for its first test since Fiji were flogged 91- 0 there in 2005. But it does not rank among New Zealand’s premier venues.

Hamil­ton and Christchurch both missed host­ing the All Blacks this year. Rather than view tests per sea­son, Tew said 2016- 17 matches were al­lo­cated to­gether.

“We be­lieve hav­ing had two Li­ons tests and the Blues game at Eden Park it was a good op­por­tu­nity to give North Har­bour a game.

“In the t wo- year pe­riod we thought we found a good bal­ance be­tween gen­er­at­ing rev­enue — three games for the Li­ons at Eden Park was ob­vi­ously sig­nif­i­cant in that re­gard — and spread­ing tests through­out the coun­try which in­cluded Christchurch, Dunedin, Welling­ton, Hamil­ton, North Har­bour, New Ply­mouth and Auck­land.

“We got a bit of crit­i­cism for not hav­ing a Li­ons test in the South Is­land but the re­al­ity is there is not a city or venue that could have coped.”

The large North Shore- based South African com­mu­nity did not play a part in Al­bany host­ing the Boks.

“If you ask { All Blacks coach] Steve Hansen he might say it was a poor de­ci­sion in that re­gard but then the South Africans are tak­ing the All Blacks to New­lands this year which is a place we have a con­sid­er­able amount of sup­port.”

The scrap for host­ing ap­pears to be fur­ther com­pli­cated, par­tic­u­larly for the re­gions which tend to ap­pre­ci­ate the All Blacks more, with Nel­son set to host Ar­gentina next year.

In fu­ture, the likes of Napier, which last hosted the All Blacks in 2014, and New Ply­mouth, where all boxes were ticked last week, may have to sweeten the deal.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Nel­son rugby, the coun­cil and pri­vate in- vestors sealed its pre­sen­ta­tion over oth­ers. Auck­land, Welling­ton and Dunedin will host other home tests in 2018.

“It’s fair to say Nel­son put a pro­posal that is at­trac­tive and that takes into ac­count a range of things.

“We put out an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to pitch — I wouldn’t call it a raw ten­der process — and say th­ese are the cri­te­ria we have to take into ac­count.”

That in­cludes cal­cu­la­tions around ca­pac­ity and yield per- seat; cer­tain stan­dards for play­ers, spec­ta­tors, broad­cast, me­dia, se­cu­rity and lo­gis­ti­cal el­e­ments such as ac­com­mo­da­tion.

But the bot­tom line clearly car­ries weight.

“The re­al­ity i s there are more places that want games than we have games so we’re al­ways go­ing to dis­ap­point. We try and be as open and trans­par­ent as we can with­out breach­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity. We don’t run a Dutch auc­tion.

“Then we’re look­ing for a pack­age that the city can de­liver the ex­pe­ri­ence we want. It’s not an ex­act sci­ence. We put some mea­sure­ments in place but we’ve also got to ex­er­cise some judg­ment.

“We are cer­tainly very aware, hav­ing just had the ex­pe­ri­ence, of what the All Blacks in a city like New Ply­mouth means to the game and the com­mu­nity. The same will no doubt hap­pen when we go to Nel­son.”

Christchurch i s ex­pected to go with­out the All Blacks for at least three years, a no­tion that has caused Cantabri­ans con­sid­er­able angst. But un­til a new sta­dium is built, the prospect of Hansen’s men run­ning out in his home city ap­pears grim.

“We are deal­ing with a sta­dium there that is con­sid­er­ably lim­ited. It was a great fix for a se­ri­ous prob­lem and we went past our ini­tial com­mit­ment to bring test matches there when it was built. The re­al­ity when we play a game at a venue like that i s there is an op­por­tu­nity cost to New Zealand Rugby which means everyone in rugby is worse off be­cause of that de­ci­sion.”

Tew, mean­while, ac­knowl­edged con­cerns the Wal­la­bies test in Dunedin did not sell out.

Pic­ture / Photosport

Tests are al­lo­cated on the ba­sis of ground ca­pac­ity and gen­er­at­ing rev­enue.

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