Change is in the air: NZ Rugby addresses governance model review

NZ Rugby has revealed plans for governance changes. Board chair Dame Patsy Reddy has presented the board’s governance model to NZR’s voting members, the 26 provincial unions (PUs) and the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board (NZMRB).

The board’s recommendation would see a transition to a fully independent model of governance.

The announcement comes seven months after the release of the independent Pilkington Report, which stated that NZR’s constitution and consequent governance structures “are not fit for purpose in the modern era.”

The report made a number of recommendations, most notably the creation of an independent process to ensure the appointment of an appropriately skilled, high-performing board to govern the organisation.

It also called for the creation of a Stakeholder Council to ensure the voices of the wide spectrum of the rugby community in the country are heard and their interests represented in a collaborative forum.

In the long and highly charged period since, NZR have agreed to an independent board and independent process to appoint its members, but have stopped short of following the recommendation of the Stakeholder Council to the letter.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson and chair Dame Patsy Reddy

The review called for an independent chair and 15 nominees from mandatory stakeholder groups such as the NZ Māori Rugby Board, the Pasifika Advisory group and the NZ Secondary Schools Rugby Union among others. NZR is proposing that the size and make-up of what they would ultimately call the Rugby Council would be determined once the purpose and responsibilities are established as part of the co-creation process.

It has also said that “the responsibilities of the Stakeholder Council contemplated in the review recommendation will be undertaken by The Transitional Appointments Panel until The Council is established.”

NZR has accepted the recommendations from the review regarding the size of the board and general capabilities of its members, and the way they are appointed. It is anticipated that a transition period would apply from now until the 2025 Annual General Meeting.

It’s understood the process and proposals have caused serious angst among the PUs, who potentially stand to lose some representation at board level. The concern was insufficient decision-making ability, with a fundamental disagreement on the independent nature of the governance review.

The PUs have put forward an alternative proposal, which would mandate at least three board members to have at least two years of experience on a PU board.

This is at odds with NZR’s vision for more diversity across gender, background, and ethnicity. The exact wording of their board member proposal is: Entrenching a requirement in the Constitution that the Board must have sufficient rugby knowledge and expertise relating to rugby at all levels of the game in New Zealand, including experience and understanding of the issues and challenges facing NZR, as well as tikanga / Te Ao Māori expertise and strong relationships across Māori and Pasifika.

The alternate proposal situation is the reason why this process has been dragged out as long as it has. As reported in the NZ Herald, at a post-board briefing with the PU chairs and chief executives last Friday the friction caused was so high that Reddy had threatened to hand in her resignation if the PU proposal was voted in at NZR’s Special General Meeting, given that she would be unable to chair a board whose structure she did not support.

The perceived reduction in power of the PUs comes at critical time for provincial rugby, with serious question marks over the future broadcast plans for the NPC and FPC, and its overall role in the high-performance pathway of elite level players.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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