It was not unaminous, but it was very close, as New Zealand Rugby’s affiliated bodies passed constitution changes intended to promote diversity in Kiwi rugby by a vote of 84 in favour to eight against.
These changes will usher in a new look to the New Zealand Rugby board. One change will be that the number of appointed members will increase from three to six.
Some of the appointees will come from people outside the game, to inject some perspectives and skills that are outside the rugby mainstream.
A woman will be one of the Appointments and Remuneration Committee.
The vote was taken at a Special Genera Meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
The changes also include a shift from six of the nine-member board being elected by affiliate unions to three, with the remaining six to be appointed, rather than elected.
The primary impetus behind the changes, according to New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey, was the rash of embarrassing off-field issues in 2016 producing undesirable negative publicity.
“It gives an opportunity for the New Zealand Rugby board… to get with the times,” Impey said. “We’re looking to do two things. One, as New Zealand Rugby faces its challenges and opportunities going forward, we need to get more skills on our board, a wider skill set. It also enables us to achieve some of our diversity goals. Whether that be gender, ethnicity, age, whatever, so that the board better represents who is playing the game, who our fans are, the rugby community if you like.”
To some, it might sound like a case of political correctness run amok, but others think that it has been a long time coming.
The new board will attempt to more closely mimic New Zealand society.
Hopefully, the effort will move forward smoothly, but the vote itself had some contentious moments, with some objecting to the vote being cast verbally, rather than by secret ballot.
Impey reported that the eight nay votes came from four Heartland rugby unions that expressed that the changes were a threat to the status quo.