The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has offered the licenses of four of its five Super Rugby franchises to owner-managers in an unprecedented move toward partial-privatization.
The union will advertise in New Zealand newspapers this weekend for parties interested in buying the licenses of the Auckland Blues, Waikato Chiefs, Wellington Hurricanes and Canterbury Crusaders while the financially troubled Otago Highlanders are likely to remain under the union's control.
The decision follows an independent review of Super Rugby and the franchises in New Zealand and a period of consultation with provincial unions and franchises.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said considering a licensee arrangement for the franchises made sense as it would provide the additional capital required to ensure the success of the franchises on and off the field.
He explained: "This is an early phase to get a real view of the level of interest in an opportunity to be associated with New Zealand's brand of rugby and what is considered to be the world’s best rugby competition.
"The overwhelming feedback during consultation clearly pointed to the need to reinvigorate the franchise model. This unique opportunity to manage and operate a Super Rugby team is an exciting development for New Zealand rugby.
"We are hoping this invitation will generate interest from a broad range of both rugby and non-rugby individuals, organisations and consortiums," he said.
Licensees would have the right to own and manage each team, selecting its players and promoting the team brand and its matches. The NZRU would continue to pay the players, avoiding any club versus country conflicts over player availability.
Interested parties have until 9 March 2012 to confirm their interest in being granted a licence to manage and operate a Super Rugby team.
Any decision to grant a Licence is expected to be made by the NZRU Board mid-way through 2012 and any changes proposed would not be in place before the 2013 season therefore the 2012 Super Rugby competition is unaffected.
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