25 Oct 2009

Rugby unions urge rethink on relegation

9:58 pm on 25 October 2009

One of the unions likely to be cut from the top competition in New Zealand rugby is already feeling the fallout.

Four teams will be cut from the 14-team format after this year's cup ends. Manawatu, Tasman, Counties Manukau and Northland are the likely candidates.

The chief executive of the Counties Manukau rugby union, Phil McConnell, says there's been a dramatic increase in season memberships this year and gate sales have also been steady.

However he says Counties Manukau is struggling to get players to commit to staying next year, due to the uncertainty, and sponsors have indicated they would drop out if the team was relegated.

The NZRU says the 14-team format has bled money, but Northland Rugby Union chair Andrew Golightly believes the competition has been a success.

He says if teams have shown they can be sustainable they deserve to be in the top level competition, and it is good for New Zealand rugby if that is made up of 14 teams.

The community rugby manager for Manawatu, Chris Ricketts, isn't convinced the new format will be any cheaper overall.

He is arguing for a one-year reprieve, saying omission from the top division in the year leading up to the Rugby World Cup could have a huge impact on support of the game by people in the region.