Mark Robinson says he is optimistic that New Zealand Rugby’s $460-million deal with US investors Silver Lake will go ahead despite a group of senior All Blacks and Black Ferns expressing concerns over the proposed investment.
In a letter signed by 1987 All Blacks World Cup-winning captain David Kirk, NZ Players’ Association chief executive Rob Nichol, All Blacks captain Sam Cane and his national teammates, Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith and Dane Coles, as well as Black Ferns Sarah Hirini and Selica Winiata, concerns were raised over Silver Lake’s offer to buy a 15% stake in NZR’s commercial rights, fearing exploitation of Maori and Pasifika culture.
On Tuesday, Robinson revealed NZR is confident of gaining the necessary support from its 26 provincial unions at the annual general meeting mid next month, which will allow the ‘transformational’ deal to go ahead, despite being forced into mediation with the Players’ Association, who are opposing the investment.
According to Robinson, the Silver Lake deal will greatly benefit all levels of the game by providing an immediate cash injection and establishing a future legacy fund.
‘We do believe it is truly a transformational opportunity for all of the game,’ Robinson explained. ‘We believe the game needs to change. We believe we have a strong leadership role to play in providing opportunities for that to happen.
‘This is an opportunity that we believe has real merit and we want to provide as much information, comfort, security and knowledge that we’ve done everything possible when we walk into any forum to give people confidence we’ve done that.
‘As great as our legacy has been there’s going to be a need to change the way we operate and this provides us with the pathway to leverage those commercial opportunities to invest back into the game.
‘Having said that, we know there are conversations that have to be had to make sure everyone is comfortable with the work we’re doing.’
Robinson also confirmed that he had since spoken to the players involved in the issuing of the letter.
‘I’ve had the opportunity to speak to some senior All Blacks and they remain very open-minded to what is being proposed at this stage. They are committed to wanting what is best for the game in this country at all levels. We’ll continue to hopefully have more constructive dialogue with them.’
Photo: Getty Images