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New Zealand to keep lion’s share of bumper rugby tour profits

The British and Irish Lions’ 10-match New Zealand tour was virtually a sellout, with 342,000 tickets sold as tens of thousands of Lions fans poured in for an event that only happens once every 12 years © AFP/File / PETER PARKS

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Jul 10 – New Zealand Rugby revealed Monday that the British and Irish Lions series is set to deliver a bumper profit, but ruled out sharing more of it with the four nations whose players made up the touring team.

NZR chief Steve Tew said the 10-match tour was virtually a sellout, with 342,000 tickets sold as tens of thousands of Lions fans poured into New Zealand for an event that only happens once every 12 years.

“It’s a bit early in terms of wrapping up costs and income, but we were very close to selling out every game which was our budgeted expectation, so we should be on track. There were no red flags, that’s for sure,” he told Fairfax New Zealand.

The loss-making organisation has previously said that profits from the tour were 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 of expenses,” he said.

New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew © AFP/File / MICHAEL BRADLEY

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 nations and helped fill their stadiums.

“We consider the income that the south generates from a Lions tour as a really important part of equalising what is an inequitable distribution of money when we tour north and they tour south in a normal year,” he said.

Tew did not reveal NZR’s profit projections but the amount is almost certain to be more than the NZ$20 million ($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.

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“That experience will be banked for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and will be invaluable.”

– ‘Hating it’ –

New Zealand’s No 8 Kieran Read (L) and British and Irish Lions blindside flanker Sam Warburton hold the trophy after the drawn Test series, at Eden Park in Auckland, on July 8, 2017 © AFP/File / PETER PARKS

Former All Blacks and Lions coach Graham Henry said the Lions tour showed that the New Zealanders’ 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 showed how to pressure the reigning world champions, particularly on defence.

“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 London’s Daily Telegraph.

“Australia and South Africa in particular have tailed off and that is a bit of a negative for the All Blacks.”

Meanwhile, 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.

Gatland was depicted as a clown by one newspaper and there were accusations he was “unravelling” under the pressure of touring his homeland.

“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.

“You don’t publicly show that something’s affecting you but I don’t mind people criticising me tactically or the way that we play, but I thought some of the stuff was quite personal and as a Kiwi I found that quite challenging, to be perfectly honest.”

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Gatland had the last laugh, turning up for his press conference after the drawn third Test in Auckland wearing a red nose.

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