In an historic first for the women’s rugby 15s game, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) have negotiated a formal Black Ferns professional performance programme.
The terms for the programme are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will see a minimum of 30 players employed by NZR on a Black Ferns contract with a guaranteed retainer, assembly fees and a range of other benefits.
Other highlights of the MOU are the establishment of a Black Ferns Legacy Fund, a Parental Policy and Personal Development support. 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.
The MOU further acknowledges the success of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup winning Black Ferns who 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 designed to help leverage and grow the game on the back of the platform created by their RWC win.
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).
The Parental Policy in the MOU introduces an entitlement for players returning to the programme from maternity leave, to have 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 for each player until their child turns 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.
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, who will train out of Regional Performance Hubs throughout New Zealand with the majority being managed by Provincial Unions as part of their existing High Performance Programme. Interim contracts will also be available for players called into the Black Ferns squad.
In line with other national teams and professional players, Black Ferns will receive the appropriate technical, tactical, biomechanical, strength and conditioning programming, nutritional advice, medical and sports psychological support appropriate for elite female athletes.
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. Details of the Black Ferns fixtures for 2018 will be announced in due course.
In line with the CEA, significant support will be given to female players around Personal Development so they are assisted in the critical areas of career/education and work, finance and asset protection, character development, mental wellness and other professional rugby obligations and expectations. Similar to the Super Rugby environments, a Personal Development Manager will be allocated specifically to support the Black Ferns.
With the future of women’s rugby in mind, NZR will also establish a working group focused on assessing future competition options and structures at an international, SANZAAR and national level.
NZR CEO Steve Tew said he was proud of the announcement which signalled new era in women’s sport in New Zealand and in rugby.
“Women’s participation in sport is growing globally, and they represent the fastest growing group in New Zealand rugby numbers. One in seven rugby players in New Zealand is female.
“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 highlights our commitment to all rugby and to the black jersey.
“Congratulations to the negotiation team on their hard work behind this agreement. The programme we are announcing today delivers a sustainable model that allows for growth, and that is ultimately, great for the game.
“This year will be an exciting year for the Black Ferns - we have already announced Glenn Moore’s re-appointment as Head Coach, and we will soon announce details of the Black Ferns 2018 programme.”
NZRPA CEO Rob Nichol said: “This is a significant milestone for the women’s 15 game. 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.
“It is a credit to those players who over several decades who have built such a strong platform, based on an outstanding culture and phenomenal international success, that has enabled this professional performance programme to come to fruition. It is pleasing that the 2017 Rugby World Cup Black Ferns will be acknowledged for the impetus and inspiration they have given the game on the back of their success. For the future it signals a very real career path for women’s 15s rugby players, one that will allow them to thrive in rugby but most importantly one that will provide an equal focus on helping talent people to achieve engagement and success beyond the game, within their families, communities and chosen careers.
“As with all our agreements, the MOU has a strong focus on personal and career development, ensures the provision of key life, trauma and medical insurances, access to quality savings programs while taking care of all the normal terms and conditions expected within a modern-day employment environment. The maternity policy gives the players the appropriate support to return to the game if they choose after having a baby. This gives players the flexibility to make important life decision while continuing their rugby pathway.
“With performance investment and benefits such as these comes an increased level of expectation and professionalism, something the players both understand and will embrace. “We want to thank all those involved to getting the MOU to this stage, it is an exciting time to be a female rugby player in New Zealand.”
Black Ferns Memorandum of Understanding - Summary The Black Ferns Performance Programme
The Black Ferns Performance Programme will be made up of approximately 50 Players. These Players will train out of Regional Performance Hubs located throughout the country, with the majority being managed by Provincial Unions as part of their existing High-Performance Programme.
Each Player will have an individual Personal and Performance Development Plan that will outline their weekly structure including work/study, rugby (personal and performance development) and other obligations in respect of their time. This plan is to be agreed between the NZR (or Provincial Union) nominated Performance Manager, NZRPA Personal Development Manager and the Player. Priority will be given to ensuring the Player can maintain their work and/or study.
It is expected that Players will be required to commit around 10-14 hours per week for rugby training, including weekend and club training and playing. No player should be training between the hours of 8:30am-5:00pm (Mon – Fri) for more than 8 hours per week unless exceptional circumstances require this (i.e. shift work, evening study etc). Where a Player’s living location makes it impractical to attend a Regional Performance Hub their plan will be adapted and agreed in good faith.
The Black Ferns Performance Program will include the provision of technical and tactical skill coaching, biomechanical, strength and conditioning programming, nutritional advice and plans, medical and prehab/rehab support and sports psychologist support that is appropriate for elite female rugby athletes.
In 2018 it is expected that the Black Ferns Squad and Team will Assemble for approximately 50 days to attend training camps, play a warm up game and two test matches in August, and to undertake a three-test end of year tour in November. Details of these fixtures will be announced in due course.
The Black Ferns Squad
From within the 50 Players who are part of the Black Ferns Performance Programme, 30 Players will be employed by NZR on a Black Ferns Contract as part of the Black Ferns Squad.
In each contract year these Players will receive:
Black Ferns Interim Contract
Any other Player can be employed on a Black Ferns Interim Contract to be called into the Black Ferns Squad for a set period of time. These Players will receive $750 / week when assembled as part of the Black Ferns Squad and the Assembly Fee of $2,000 / week when Assembled as part of the Black Ferns Team. If a Player has assembled for 25 days or more during a contract year they will be offered a Black Ferns Contract with a minimum Guaranteed Retainer of $12,500 (less fees already paid in that contract year) as above.