AFP27 March 2024 | 10:22

New Zealand Rugby plans sweeping 'once-in-a-generation' reform

It comes after a scathing independent review concluded that NZ Rugby's current leadership structure was 'not fit for purpose'.

New Zealand Rugby plans sweeping 'once-in-a-generation' reform

FILE: The All Blacks perform the Haka prior to the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between New Zealand and Uruguay at the OL Stadium in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon, south-eastern France, on 5 October 2023. Picture: Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

WELLINGTON - New Zealand Rugby proposed a "once-in-a-generation" overhaul of its leadership structure Wednesday, setting the stage for a power struggle at the top of the country's most popular sport.

It comes after a scathing independent review concluded that NZ Rugby's current leadership structure was "not fit for purpose".

The rugby board's proposals include a panel to appoint its leadership group so all nine board members are independently elected.

The board would be selected to ensure gender and ethnic diversity with knowledge of rugby at all levels, NZ Rugby said.

Some seats are currently decided by nominations from the provincial unions.

"Changing rugby's leadership structure is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform," NZ Rugby chair Patsy Reddy said.

"Across rugby there is widespread agreement on the need for change."

The plans have been put to NZ Rugby members, who will vote on the proposals at a date yet to be determined.

An independent report last year described the governing body as an outdated organisation hamstrung by its own structure and not fit for the modern era.

The report calls for an independent panel to appoint "an appropriately skilled, high-performing board".

The planned changes heeded calls for experience of grassroots rugby, Maori culture and language, plus stronger ties with the community from the Pacific islands.

There is potential however for a power struggle because New Zealand's 26 provincial unions have drafted their own proposal.

One key difference is that at least three of the nine board members have experience on a provincial board.

Reddy said New Zealand Rugby must modernise.

"This leadership structure will provide greater opportunities for diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders to have a voice in rugby," she added.

"We are operating in a rapidly changing world and we need a leadership structure which supports a global, professional sport and meets the unique needs of our local communities."

The All Blacks, the famed New Zealand men's team, have won the World Cup three times.

They kick off their 2024 season under new head coach Scott Robertson in July when they host England.

The women's side are reigning world champions.