'Club versus country' in rugby union: tensions in an exceptional New Zealand system
In contrast to the global reach and popularity of the association game, rugby union enjoys the position of being the national sport of New Zealand. This position is sustained by an exceptional model of governance with central control by the national administration. It was established before the turn of the twentieth century and has remained New Zealand’s governance model in the new professional era. A comparative discussion of the different organizational structures in the northern and southern hemispheres shows how the sport is vulnerable to the contrasting governance systems characterized as ‘club – versus – country’. Drawing on Leifer’s account of the transformation of the major leagues in North America, the article investigates how the tension between hierarchical control by a central authority and the drive for local autonomy by clubs is resolved. It details the early establishment of local and national amateur rugby union competitions in New Zealand and argues that these ‘professional-like’ competitions represented a strategic compromise by the NZRU. In the global professional era, the NZRU has retained central control over the sport and players through the establishment of NZRU contracts to players and coaches in the five New Zealand Super 14 teams. While the wealthy English clubs exercise a considerable degree of control relative to the English RFU on the issue of player releases for national representation, the current tension in the New Zealand system resides in the saturation of the local player/coach labour market and the ability of players and coaches to exit for betterpaying contracts in the northern hemisphere.
SubjectsField of Research::20 - Language, Communication and Culture::2002 - Cultural Studies::200299 - Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified
- Arts: Journal Articles