New Zealand's Brent Impey quits as SANZAAR chairman

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Brent Impey has quit as chairman of southern hemisphere rugby body SANZAAR, saying the four-nation organization is outdated and in urgent need of change.

Impey, who has chaired the SANZAAR board for five years, will remain chairman of New Zealand Rugby. His resignation comes at a time when New Zealand is becoming increasingly distanced from the SANZAAR partnership that also includes South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

When the COVID-19 pandemic and closed borders brought the full Super Rugby tournament to a halt in March, New Zealand formed its own domestic tournament involving its five Super Rugby teams. It will operate the same tournament next year, this time with crossover matches against teams from Australia, which also has formed its own domestic Super Rugby competition.

New Zealand has made clear it sees the immediate future of Super Rugby as being a trans-Tasman and Pacific tournament, at least while the coronavirus pandemic persists.

South Africa chose not to contest the Rugby Championship in Australia this month because of the late start to its domestic competition, which left players under-prepared. That left New Zealand, Argentina and Australia to contest a reworked Tri-Nations tournament, but that also gave a glimpse of a future for the Championship and Super Rugby which might not include World Cup champion South Africa.

New Zealand Rugby has repeatedly spoken of the importance of the Rugby Championship and its commitment to SANZAAR. But it has also highlighted the importance of creating sustainable and commercially viable competitions during the COVID era.

Impey made clear his view that SANZAAR must adapt to a changing world order.

“In my view it is time for SANZAAR to make some fundamental changes which are best placed to happen under an independent chair,” he said. “While there was no imperative for change it was appropriate to rotate the role. However, I now believe that the role of chair of a national union as well as chair of SANZAAR is a conflict for any country.”

Impey called for changes to SANZAAR’s structure, hinting at the influence wielded by the Six Nations unions in recent changes at World Rugby.

“The four country consensus model is outdated if we are looking to grow the game commercially and internationally,” he said. “A membership model would allow the group to act together on issues such as the global calendar, rules, regulations, governance and mutual commercial interests. Currently, the odds are heavily stacked against SANZAAR in its present form being able to affect change.”

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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