Lions fill Kiwi pockets
New Zealand Rugby revealed yesterday that the British and Irish Lions series was set to deliver a bumper profit, but ruled out sharing more of it with the four nations of the touring team.
NZR chief Steve Tew said the 10-match tour was virtually a sellout, with 342000 tickets sold as tens of thousands of Lions fans poured into New Zealand.
"We were close to selling out every game. There were no red flags, that's for sure," he told Fairfax New Zealand.
The loss-making NZR has said that profits from the tour are central to its plans to break even by 2020, a point Tew reiterated.
"It will be a big income spike this year, but it needs to be spread out over a number of years," he said.
Tew did not believe income-sharing arrangements needed to be revisited, saying the All Blacks did not receive a share of revenue when they toured northern hemisphere countries.
"We consider the income from a Lions tour as a really important part of equalising what is an inequitable distribution of money when we tour north," he said.
Tew did not reveal NZR's profit projections, but the amount is almost certain to be more than the $14.5-million the organisation banked after the last tour in 2005.
While disappointed that the three-Test series ended in a draw, Tew said the number of talented youngsters who emerged was a good sign for the future.
"We've ended up with a lot more younger players playing this series than we would have planned for, but they'll be better for it," he said.
"That experience will be banked for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and will be invaluable."
Former All Blacks and Lions coach Graham Henry said the Lions tour showed New Zealand's main threat in 2019 would come from the northern hemisphere, not the south.
He said the Wallabies and Springboks were struggling, but the Lions had shown how to pressure the world champions.
"Over the next couple of years the signs are that the All Blacks will face more competition from the northern hemisphere countries than they will experience here in the Rugby Championship," Henry wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
- Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed he was left "hating" being on tour at times because of the personal criticism levelled at him by his fellow New Zealanders.
"My wife asked me about three weeks into the tour. She said: 'How are you enjoying the tour?' I said: 'I'm hating it'," the Times reported. "I thought some of the stuff was quite personal," he said.