Almost a year after the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) put out a call for potential bidders for its Super Rugby franchises, the Crusaders' licence has been awarded to a South Island provincial union-based group.
The Crusaders Limited Partnership (CLP) is owned by all six Crusaders' unions: Canterbury, Tasman, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, Buller and West Coast.
Each of the provincial unions will make a capital contribution to the Crusaders Limited Partnership (totalling $200,000) as well as a loan contribution (totalling $300,000), meaning CLP begins its operation with $500,000 in funds.
Christchurch based-businessman and keen Crusaders supporter Brent Francis is providing a guarantee to satisfy the NZRU that CLP should be able to meet its financial commitments during the term of the licence.
He will be one of six directors on the new Crusaders (GP) Ltd board, which will be a partner of CLP along with the six unions.
The other directors will be two nominated by the Canterbury Rugby Football Union, one nominated by the other five unions and two independents.
The licence applies from January 1 and will expire on August 31 2020, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.
Crusaders chairman Murray Ellis said the new partnership was a positive step forward.
"It puts us on a sound financial footing and provides certainty and stability for the future. We are particularly proud that the licence agreement for the Crusaders will see rugby continuing to 'own' rugby," he said.
A licence to manage the Hurricanes was awarded last month to a Wellington group comprising the Wellington Rugby Football Union and local investors.
Tew said the NZRU is confident a bid will be submitted for the Blues to allow a licence to be issued in 2014, and is also hopeful of a bid for the Chiefs.
The Highlanders were excluded from the bidding process, as they were already exploring options for a new operating model.