Rugby union to bail out Crusaders

Super Rugby powerhouse the Canterbury Crusaders will receive a New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) bailout to ease the financial blow suffered in the Christchurch earthquake, reports said on Tuesday.

The seven-times Super Rugby champions’ 36 000-capacity AMI Stadium remains closed after the February 22 quake, which killed 181 people, forcing the Crusaders to host “home” games in venues that can fit barely 10 000 spectators.

A one-off match against the Coastal Sharks at London’s Twickenham Stadium on March 27 was supposed to provide a financial lifeline for the team but attracted only 35 094, well short of the 55 000 anticipated.

The NZRU was now set to give the Canterbury Rugby Football Union a one-off grant to shore up its books, Christchurch Press reported.

The newspaper said the final figure was yet to be determined but could exceed NZ$1-million ($790 000).

Canterbury Rugby chief executive Hamish Riach said the bailout was a “huge relief”.

“Our revenue streams have been impacted upon severely by the earthquake,” he told reporters.

“To have this funding package means the future of rugby in Canterbury at all levels is more secure.”

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew told the newspaper that the grant reflected the importance of Canterbury to New Zealand rugby.

“Canterbury rugby is an incredibly well-run organisation, but it’s clear they need help, which we have actually been doing so in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake with some business support, and will continue to do so,” he said.—AFP

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