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Axing Sides Will Divide Rugby Ahead Of World Cup, Petition Says

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Axing Sides Will Divide Rugby Ahead Of World Cup, Petition Says

Wellington, Nov 13 NZPA - Axing teams from the Air New Zealand Cup will divide rugby fans just when a united front is needed for the World Cup, says the organiser of petition to be presented to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) today.

A petition of 35,000 names seeking to stop four unions being axed from the top domestic competition is to be handed to NZRU rugby manager Neil Sorensen this afternoon.

Two hours before the handing over, the campaign had gathered 34,726 names, with 13,076 from its own online and collected signatures, 14,150 from Save the Makos, and 7500 from Save the Turbos.

Tasman's Makos and Manawatu's Turbos are two of the sides most at risk of being culled from the financially troubled competition next year.

The petition organisers pointed out that the Makos beat Auckland, North Harbour, and Waikato this year, while Manawatu downed Otago and North Harbour.

Petition organisers Kevin Hare and Dave Kirk-Jones portray themselves as rugby lovers on their Facebook pages, with Mr Kirk-Jones appearing in Turbos regalia.

They say the NZRU is meant to "promote, foster and develop rugby throughout New Zealand", and the smaller unions should not be axed from the premier competition.

Mr Hare -- a self-employed Wellington Lions fan -- pointed out Manawatu, Tasman, Counties-Manukau and Northland had spent considerable sums upgrading their grounds, only to now face expulsion.

He did not feel the process had been fair, or rugby fans had been properly consulted.

"I'm a rugby fan. We're not against change," he said.

"We're saying keep the status quo for at least the next two years, get the country behind the World Cup -- we don't want a divided nation during 2011 -- then revisit the whole structure in 2012."

If money was an issue, not all teams needed to play each other in one season, he said.

There could be two conferences -- North and South -- as was the case in the National Football League (NFL), in the United States.

Even in the National Rugby League (NRL), the Warriors did not play each club twice in one season, he said.

"We're going (to the NZRU) not just with a petition, but with ideas (for change in the competition)."

The NZRU were expected to announce this month which four provinces are to be relegated to the first division in 2011.

Another revamp of the old National Provincial Championship was inevitable once the 14-team competition was deemed unsustainable.

Tasman and Northland were threatened with demotion last season but gained a reprieve, however short-lived.

Next on the block was Counties-Manukau, who this season boldly rejected a NZRU bail out package that was contingent on the union voluntarily heading for the exit. NZPA

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