New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has been deemed “not fit for purpose” by an independent governance review commissioned by the governing body.

The report, released today (August 31) and just over a week before the 2023 World Cup begins in France, paints a bleak picture of the organization, described as an outdated organization hampered by its own structure and not fit for the modern era.

David Pilkington, chair of the review panel, said: “New Zealand Rugby in the professional era is a large and complex international business.

“The structure it sits within was not designed for a business of this size and complexity. It needs change to address the many challenges.”

The review, commissioned by NZR and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association, found fault with the governing body’s constitution and governance structure.

The panel featured former All Blacks captain Graham Mourie, as well as Anne Urlwin and Whaimutu Dewes.

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The report put forward several recommendations including an independent process “to ensure the appointment of an appropriately skilled, high-performing, independent board to govern the organization.”

It also called for the creation of a “stakeholder council to ensure all key voices across rugby are heard and their interests represented in a collaborative forum.”

The review found an “overwhelming proportion” of the 191 people interviewed said that the current arrangements “deliver a board that, on balance, is insufficiently qualified to provide the leadership the sport needs.”

In the panel’s view, New Zealand rugby also has too many professional players with the NPC, New Zealand’s provincial competition, seen as “unsustainable in its current format”, while Super Rugby clubs are also struggling financially.

The report stated: “We question not only whether New Zealand can support so many fully professional rugby players but whether it can afford the overhead costs of 26 different Provincial Unions.

“The NPC competition can only continue in its present form as a fully professional competition with extensive NZR financial support but Super Rugby clubs, supposedly commercial entities, are all struggling to make money as well.

“The member unions are financially dependent on NZR. We would expect the national body to use this point of leverage to resolve these kinds of problems.

“We were told by many, however, that the NZR board and NZR staff are constantly mindful of upsetting the member unions and the threat of member unions calling a special general meeting to remove the NZR board is ever present.”

The panel stopped short of singling out any individuals within the NZR board or at the executive level.

Despite the scathing criticism of NZR, it did note that this reflected broader issues at play within the sport domestically.

NZR chair Patsy Reddy said: “In December last year the NZR board commissioned an independent review of our constitution and governance structure, with the aim of ensuring that rugby is best placed for the future.

“I want to thank the panel for their extensive and detailed report and acknowledge all those who have contributed to the review through various consultation opportunities.

“NZR received the review today [Thursday] and the board will now take time to digest it fully.

“We are committed to considering all recommendations. We will consult with our member unions and stakeholders on their views and next steps to deliver the best possible governance framework for rugby in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

New Zealand will kick off the opening match of the World Cup against hosts France on September 8.