Rugby: Onus on New Zealand provincial unions to vote for necessary changes after damning review

New Zealand Rugby's provincial unions are faced with a choice - either cling to power or vote for the change desperately needed to rescue our national game. 

On Thursday, a highly critical independent review found NZR's current governance model is "not fit for purpose" and recommends major changes touted by some today as potentially the biggest in the history of the game in New Zealand

Those who've overseen a brutal assessment of the organisation have today delivered a clear message to those charged with safeguarding the future of the sport.

The review paints an alarming picture and is described as unfit for purpose, leaving some to question if rugby can survive if changes aren't made.

Low crowd numbers are a staple of the NPC in recent years.
Low crowd numbers are a staple of the NPC in recent years. Photo credit: Photosport

Manawatū's rare win over Auckland on Wednesday was a historic moment in the NPC. It's just a shame hardly anyone was there to see it.

Those dwindling and at times absent fan numbers at Eden Park are just yet another example of the rugby's struggles.

"I think the big thing here is the broad consultation process and recognition widely that we've got a problem," review panel chair David Pilkington told Newshub.

"If we keep on doing the same thing we're doing now, we're going to continue to see a decline."

A problem shown in a 134-page review into the state of our national game and the challenges it faces. Essentially, in its current model, it isn't fit for purpose.

The panel believes the current board has been ineffective in its direction of the organisation and hasn't operated in the necessary manner.

"We were told over and over again by people 'be bold'," Pilkington explained. "Don't try and recommend something that people will accept and welcome.

"Recommend what you think is the best solution."

The panel has recommended two overarching changes - the creation of an independent process to ensure the appropriate people are appointed to the board.

And the creation of a stakeholder council to ensure all voices are heard.

The broom could be brought out and the NZR board, in its current form, would be swept aside.

"[We need to] have a board that really ensures we get the people with the right skills and the right knowledge and then combine that with a counsel of members which can represent and interact with that board," said Pilkington.

Though the changes could leave NPC unsustainable in its current format, particularly financially.

"They've gotta get their thinking helmets on and think of a way to reduce the costs with whatever costs they are and see how to make it attractive to the fans again to come to the games," said Canterbury veteran Luke Romano.

But as the review has shown, fan attendance alone isn't going to be enough to save the game.

There have been various reactions from all parties to the review.

The key player in what happens next comes in the shape of the 26 provincial unions.

Two-thirds of those will need to vote in favour of the changes to get them over the line. That will involve a drastic change in the power those unions hold within the game itself.

Should the changes not pass, drastic action could be taken - the most severe of which could be a player strike at NPC level.

And while it's something no one wants, it could be a chance for players to walk the walk if their unions won't.