In ‘breaking new ground’ New Zealand Rugby has established professional contracts with Black Ferns players, to herald new opportunities in professional performance and gender equality. This is the first professional contract in New Zealand women’s rugby, and is a positive step that underlines clear advantages made in the game.
NEWS | Historic Black Ferns Professional agreements announced today at New Zealand Rugby.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) March 11, 2018
The professional contracts; included in an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Black Ferns players, will cover the period up until the new collective employment agreement is formalized between New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the NZ Rugby Players Association.
The remuneration for the players will be paid out of the Player Payment Pool agreed between NZR and the NZRPA. Under the existing Collective Employment Agreement (CEA) remuneration is in the form of a guaranteed retainer, assembly fees and a range of other benefits.
Covering women’s players from the Black Ferns XVs team, the document is recognition of the input women now have in rugby. It continues the advances women have made in gaining fair equity in the sport. And now, with professional contracts with Black Ferns players, they now receive similar benefits and protection as the men have enjoyed.
30 Women’s Players employed by NZR on a Black Ferns Contracts
In addition to the 30 contracted players, there will be a wider training squad which will see the Black Ferns Performance Programme cater for a further 20 players. Those women will train out of Regional NZR performance hubs. The majority being managed by Provincial Unions, as part of their existing High Performance Programmes. This would also reward players when involved in the 2018 Farah Palmer Cup, and any [tbc] Black Ferns fixtures this year.
It brings the XVs players inline with other agreements offered in NZR, to Super Rugby and Provincial Mitre 10 Cup teams. But a specific section has been improved, to meet player’s current and future needs.
A Parental Policy and Personal Development support entitlements are a fundamental base of the MOU. The Parental Policy introduces an entitlement for players returning to the programme from maternity leave. This includes having a support person of their choice to travel and stay with them, to look after the infant during squad assembly.
The costs of travel and accommodation for the support person will be met by the Player Payment Pool, with the cost capped at $15,000 a year (until the age of one). The policy also provides opportunities for players due to go on maternity leave, to move into other safe employment within the rugby network; until the player goes on maternity leave.
To align with other New Zealand professional rugby contracts, the players will receive medical and life insurance, and an opportunity to join the Player Savings Scheme and KiwiSaver.
“This is a significant milestone for the women’s XV game.”
NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol sys “It is a long-term sustainable model that offers genuine pathways and support for female players on and off the field, and that we can build on in the future.”
2017 Rugby World Cup winners Legacy endorsed by NZR
For the 2017 Women’ Rugby World Cup winners, it is a step forward from amateur status. It also respects on players from that group. Winning Black Ferns will all be offered a stand-alone role as a ‘Rugby World Cup Legacy Ambassador’. The RWC Legacy Ambassadors will be paid to undertake promotional and related activities. All designed to help leverage and grow the game on the back of the platform created by their RWC win.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew said “the Black Ferns – and the Black Ferns Sevens – have rapidly grown in profile, statue, and relevance on the international stage. This agreement supports them to be the best they can be when wearing the black jersey.
“Rugby fans can’t get enough of the Black Ferns’ exhilarating and entertaining rugby. And, if we want to support players to continue to give their all, we need to ensure we’re providing the best environment in order for them to perform at their best. Today’s announcement of professional contracts with Black Ferns players highlights our commitment to all rugby and to the black jersey [no matter the gender].”
Black Ferns Players can meet new Professional Performance Standards
The performance aspect of the MOU offers the 30 elite players job security, and fringe benefits. Like other high performing employees, benefits and bonuses can also be expected–such as a RWC winners bonuses in the future.
For the five-time World Cup winning Black Ferns, it underlines that groups high achievements. The legacy role can show that young girls and women can reach their goals in sport. Plus it demonstrates they can be rewarded for that effort.
Rob Nichol reinforced this, when he commented “with performance investment and benefits such as these, comes an increased level of expectation and professionalism. Something the players both understand and will embrace.”
It is expected that players will be required to commit around 10-14 hours per week for rugby training however, priority will be given to ensuring players can maintain their work and study while on the programme. For those selected to the Black Ferns squad they will assemble for approximately 50 days a year for training camps and fixtures.
Current World Champions; and for those who have the ambition to succeed in the black jersey, a recognition in gender equity and new found public respect from their employers. Those facts will certainly have positive outcomes for the women’s game across all regions.
Details of the Black Ferns fixtures for 2018 will be announced in due course.