In speaking with the Association’s Chairman, Gordon Noble-Campbell earlier this week, Hurricanes Chairman, Iain Potter was clear in his views that the “real business” of rugby was at the community level, with rugby’s current National Provincial Championship (or NPC) unsuccessfully bridging the gap between the amateur and professional games. Potter suggests that the NPC has “lost its place as being a place for club members” to represent their community. “I don’t think it needs to be a professional competition in the way it has been in the last 20 years”, says Potter.

Noting that 2020 is likely to be “a bit of a disaster” in terms of community rugby being played, Potter is clear that the current crisis will be a timely reminder that “rugby starts at the community level”. “The reality is that the nature of every rugby club in Wellington and the spirit of every rugby club across the country is volunteerism”. “Mums and Dads bringing their kids along, bringing them into the system, volunteering to be coaches, volunteering to be organisers, volunteering to be referees.”

Potter believes that rugby is well-placed to survive the current crisis, despite the financial and associated social challenges, because “clubs are local entities” and “can act as a catalyst and facilitator of local community activity”. Overall, the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic will force sport to become more localised, “rugby is well-positioned to keep its place as one of the key local providers of community engagement, of sport and activity”, he says.

The professional game is not without its challenges with the Super Rugby model having “to change a bit, because the clubs need to be more financially sustainable”, however Potter is clear on the importance of New Zealand maintaining “an elite, professional competition” as a stepping-stone to the All Blacks. He notes that “no one would have imagined the sort of financial shock where you would lose every revenue stream you have, at the same time”.

You can listen to Iain Potter’s full interview, by using the Media Player below.