Australia, New Zealand lock in Super Rugby Pacific to 2030

MELBOURNE, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Super Rugby Pacific has been locked in through to 2030 after Australia and New Zealand agreed on a new revenue split and governance model, the countries' rugby unions said on Friday.

Earlier this year, Rugby Australia (RA) Chairman Hamish McLennan said Australia might abandon the 12-team provincial competition after the 2023 season and set up a domestic league amid disagreements with New Zealand over revenue sharing.

However, after months of wrangling the governing bodies hailed a "watershed" agreement on Friday which, they said, would give certainty to players, staff, fans and broadcasters.

"We charted a new path with the introduction of Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua this year, and having all 91 games played in regional time zones, believe we have entered an exciting new era for rugby in the Pacific region," New Zealand Rugby (NZR) boss Mark Robinson said in a statement.

Super Rugby Pacific rose from the ashes of the broader southern hemisphere competition which featured South African teams and a side each from Argentina and Japan.

It collapsed in 2020 after the outbreak of COVID-19.

With South Africa subsequently joining the northern hemisphere's United Rugby Championship, Australia and New Zealand set up a trans-Tasman tournament in 2021 and expanded it with the addition of two Pasifika teams this year.

The competition will now be governed by a nine-person board led by an independent chairperson and four independent directors, with one representative each from NZR, RA, New Zealand's players union and Australia's players union.

Money has been a major sticking point, with New Zealand earning more from its broadcasting deal with Sky than Australia has with streaming service Stan.

The governing bodies said they had settled revenue sharing until the conclusion of their current broadcasting deals through to the end of 2025 - and would renegotiate once new agreements were finalised.

While no details were provided, New Zealand media reported RA had been denied the 50-50 revenue split it had been seeking but would receive an additional NZ$3-4 million ($1.91m-$2.55m) a year until 2025.

There are no plans to change the competition's format but RA Chief Executive Andy Marinos said they would continue to trial new rules and ways of boosting fan engagement.

Super Rugby Pacific's new board will also explore the creation of an integrated women's competition, with both countries running domestic leagues to date.

($1 = 1.5708 New Zealand dollars)

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.