Manawatu Standard

Unions reveal their support for Silver Lake

- Richard Knowler

The 12 Heartland provincial unions have gone public to reveal why NZ Rugby should secure a deal with US investment firm Silver Lake.

NZ Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Associatio­n are still locked in mediation about a potential deal with Silver Lake, who are understood to be seeking a deal for up to 15 per cent of the All Blacks’ commercial rights.

The deal, which could potentiall­y be worth up to $465 million to NZ Rugby, should help future proof the game at all levels in New Zealand but the NZRPA has moved to block it from going ahead until it gets more detail.

NZ Rugby and the NZRPA entered mediation last month. The dealmust be signed off by the NZRPA, in conjunctio­n with the majority – if not all – 26 provincial unions around the country.

A vote on the issue will be held at NZ Rugby’s annual meeting on April 29.

A letter from the NZRPA, which was signed by senior All Blacks to outline concerns about the Silver Lake deal, were sent to NZ Rugby in January.

Since the mediation process between NZ Rugby and NZRPA began, neither party has stated whether they have come close to reaching an agreement.

Heartland secretaria­t chairperso­n Bridget Belsham said the 12 Heartland provincial unions wanted to let the New Zealand public know they supported the Silver Lake deal because ‘‘we believe it is time for our views to be heard’’.

The statement by Belsham on behalf of the Heartland unions was sent to media yesterday afternoon to express their desire to see the US private equity giant be allowed to agree terms with NZ Rugby.

Belsham, who is also the Wanganui Rugby Football Union chief executive, said all Heartland chairs and CEOS had approved the press release.

Few details have been revealed about the mediation between NZ Rugby and the NZRPA and Belsham hadn’t been privy to any details because it was subject to confidenti­ality. However, she hoped the two parties could come to an agreement for the sake of the game beneath the profession­al tiers.

‘‘We just felt we are a couple of weeks out from the AGM and we know there is a mediation that is happening at the moment,’’ Belsham said.

‘‘We just felt it was a good time for us to go out and re-emphasise the importance of the community game in this deal, and the future of rugby.

‘‘We would be concerned if it [the Silver Lake deal] didn’t go through. We see some huge benefits for the community game. That is why we put the release out.’’

Asked if the Heartland unions should be anxious that the mediation between NZ Rugby and the NZRPA continues to drag on, Belsham said they had to trust the parties would come to an agreement.

‘‘I wouldn’t say it is a nervous time,’’ she said. ‘‘We have got faith with NZ Rugby and what they are going through. NZRPA are there to represent their aspect of the game, and the profession­al players.’’

‘‘We would be concerned if it [the Silver Lake deal] didn’t go through. We see some huge benefits for the community game.’’

Bridget Belsham

Heartland secretaria­t chairperso­n

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