From the Chair and CEO

As we write this Report, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating incredible uncertainty in our game. This is a time to review and assess the absolute priorities for rugby so that we can navigate through these unprecedented times and restore our sport in all corners of our country. We have been there for New Zealand when times have been tough before and we will be there after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic wear off too.

We have so much to be proud of when we look back over 2019. Rugby has long been New Zealand’s national sport, bringing communities together and helping our people stay active and healthy, and it is always great to see communities all over the country get out and be involved in our game.

Our sport relies on participation at all levels and 2019 saw the stabilisation in the overall number of teenagers registering to play. This reflects the incredible work being put in by our people and Provincial Unions as they reverse what has been a downward trend in this area for the last few years. We also saw the continued increase in popularity and player registrations in the women’s game across all age groups and levels. In provincial representative rugby we enjoyed a further expanded Farah Palmer Cup competition, the Ranfurly Shield moved slightly north from Otago to be locked away by Canterbury for the summer, North Otago won a third Meads Cup title, Tasman completed a perfect season, unbeaten in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership while the Crusaders secured a brilliant three-peat in Investec Super Rugby.

We are pleased to introduce this year’s Annual Report. While our annual score of 73.5% reflects our disappointment in not achieving our goal of bringing home the Rugby World Cup 2019 title (worth 20% of the overall scoreboard result), it shows an incredible delivery across the board in all other areas.

Rugby has an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of New Zealanders and our programmes educating players on family harm prevention and mental fitness have given our players the tools they need to be the best they can be, both on the field and at home.

We are also holding ourselves accountable to ensuring rugby is welcoming to everyone and a sport that all New Zealanders can be proud of.

The All Blacks recaptured the Bledisloe Cup for the 17th straight year, secured the Freedom Cup and despite not reaching the Rugby World Cup Final, played some spectacular rugby and the respect and humility they displayed off the field, particularly towards South Africa as the eventual winners, showed just what rugby is about. Some of our longer serving All Blacks players and management marked their final Test in the black jersey. We would like to thank Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams and Ben Smith for their dedication and commitment to the black jersey. Rugby genius and Head Coach Steve Hansen, and our Forwards Coach Mike Cron have also added so much to the legacy of this team and we would like to wish them the best for what’s next.

The Black Ferns had a very successful year with Women’s Rugby Super Series and Laurie O’Reilly Memorial Trophy titles. The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens both qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with the Black Ferns Sevens also extending their HSBC World Sevens Series brilliance with a fifth title. The Māori All Blacks also had a nail biting two-match Series with Fiji, with thrilling matches in Suva and Rotorua.

We also faced familiar challenges – continued demand for our players overseas emphasises the talent we have in our country, while new competitions in Japan and other parts of Asia are no doubt disrupting our competitions on home soil. We remain committed to the challenge of ongoing rugby participation as well as the sport’s relevance to young people in general, while ongoing developments in technology, alongside financial demands across our game, have given us a lot to work on. We have dedicated and passionate people involved in rugby and if we all commit to working together in 2020 and beyond, we have the ability to ensure our sport thrives into the future.

We finished the financial year with a better than budgeted result and we have $92.9m in reserves, leaving us relatively healthy financially but it is important to not be complacent. We have still been spending more money than we earn, and it is crucial that we make decisions for the future of our game from a position of relative strength, rather than wait until change is forced upon us.

Looking ahead in 2020, alongside the Review into Rugby we are also negotiating a new collective agreement, as well as working with existing and potential partners to ensure we have the funding and reach we need to bring our teams in black to more global markets.

We will keep encouraging our Super Rugby Clubs and Provincial Unions to join us in making sure our leadership team and Board reflect a diverse set of backgrounds and way of thinking, starting with nominations for NZR Board candidates. Our relationships with some of our key stakeholders also hinge on our success in this area.

We were saddened to lose some very special people in 2019. Sir Brian Lochore’s contribution to our game spanned decades and he was a brilliant advocate for the importance of the community game. He was a very special friend and is overwhelmingly missed.

Our people are at the heart of rugby’s success and it means a lot to us at NZR to know that we have the support of players, coaches, referees, volunteers and fans to tackle our challenges for the good of the sport.

Late in 2019 we were so pleased to announce our continued broadcast partnership with Sky through to 2025. Sky share our commitment to inspire and unify through rugby, making our sport the best it can be and allowing us to place even more focus on continuing to grow the game, and we are looking forward to many more years working together.

New Zealand Rugby is also grateful for the support of our commercial partners, especially adidas and AIG, whose support is vital for the funding, promotion, and strengthening of the game. We thank the New Zealand Government; Sport New Zealand; High Performance Sport New Zealand; the New Zealand Rugby Players Association, the many regional and local Councils who maintain grounds and infrastructure at a local level for rugby in New Zealand; and our key partner ACC, as well as the media for their coverage of the game.

Finally, we would like to recognise and thank our fellow Board Members as well as give a special thank you to the dedicated people at New Zealand Rugby – your work in the service of the game is inspiring and much appreciated.


Brent Impey                      

Mark Robinson