Recently a new term popped up in New Zealand sporting life MEGA FRANCHISES and no this is not some new tag team duo in the squared circle of professional wrestling. This is about facing the fact that New Zealand is small in many ways and I for one are firmly in the vote Yes for Mega Franchises!!!
For the premise of this article (I use that term loosely) I will just focus on the Wellington region of what would make a Mega Franchise.
Who would make up this Wellington Mega Franchise? Simply put all the top teams.
Hurricanes – Rugby
Central Pulse – Netball
Wellington Saints – Basketball
Firebirds – Cricket
Blaze – Cricket
Phoenix – Soccer
Yes there are other teams that do play in national competitions however for the Mega Franchise to work then these teams would have to be semi-professional at the lowest.
Now to why a mega franchise structure would work. Currently there are 5 home bases for the above 6 teams. There are 5 corporate teams working behind the scenes to get members to join, create events and game day experiences plus trying to get the sponsorship dollar. Now currently they are all fighting for the money from corporates or season tickets.
Now if you were dealing with a mega franchise because they are selling so many ticket they could become their own ticket provider, which should mean cheaper tickets to sporting events, making it more affordable for the family. Merchandising will become cheaper since you are dealing in bulk branding from the logo to the sponsors. Attract bigger and broader sponsors because they would be dealing with one organisation but be getting to showcase their brand across potentially 6 different programming all at the time. The exposure for the sponsor just becomes 6 fold more valuable to the franchise.
Now 6 sports teams that admittedly are not all playing at the same but where you house them? A quick look on any satellite map system will show you especially in Wellington space at sport venues is a high premium. Rugby League Park home of the Hurricanes is too small for what they want even now. Basin Reserve home of the Blaze and Firebirds again too small to house all those team. ASB Sport Centre home of the Pulse and Saints is large enough however there are no outside facilities. Now if we look at the Phoenix training venue of Martin Luckie Park has the outside space but not the indoor facilities. So of the training venues currently in use then Martin Luckie Park would be the place to do it. There are already two well maintained soccer fields. Space for close to two rugby fields and a large area for cricket activities. Currently at Martin Luckie they have a changing room space and three tennis courts. So here you would do a rebuild so that each team would have their own individual dressing rooms. Gym large enough to house the teams. Plus indoor court facilities for the Pulse and Saints. Then you need the office space for the corporate side and meeting room, analysis room for the teams. Throw in some parking and yes it will be a big facility but you need big to be able house a Mega Franchise.
If we look towards to the Hutt Valley three locations jump out. First one is Fraser Park Sports Life. It has the outdoor facilities already and has a great indoor facility would just need to upgrade the fields and upgrade the indoor facilities to include a gym and indoor courts. Second up would be turning Trentham Racecourse into the home of the Mega Franchise. It has the outdoor space required and the land space to make the indoor and corporate facility. So really it is an ideal place to build. The third space in the Hutt Valley is currently being used as the Silverstream Retreat. It is flat land away from the hustle already has buildings in place for the corporate side of things and for a gym. Also has accommodation already there. Outdoor facilities will need to be built along with indoor court facilities.
Now there is one more place that with a bit of rejigging could be a great mega franchise facility. It is close to town. Easy access to the motorway north. The location is the Renouf Tennis Centre. Now there are two large full enclosed buildings. One could be turned in an indoor facility for rugby and soccer. The other a court facility for basketball and netball. Then the rest of the outdoor court could be turned into grass to cover the outdoor training of cricket, rugby and soccer. There are already some corporate offices there so only a gym would need to be added, but once you pull down the stand the additional space won’t be hard to find.
Now all this new space and new money coming in leads me to a point I made in the last blog. Currently there are men’s and women’s cricket teams, Netball and Basketball cover the men and women side. Phoenix are talking about having a team in the W League (that was pre Covid). However nothing from NZRU in terms of making a Super Women’s team. It is the next logical step for them to take. If we want the Black Ferns to stay on top of the world they need to have the Super franchise to test themselves against the best. The Hurricanes team would be a very strong side and would do very well in the competition.
Having the women play in a Super Rugby competition would highlight more to young ladies that being a professional rugby player is an achievable goal. This in turn would lead to more school girls wanting to play so this would mean that you can fund a school girl specific training method therefore creating an even better pool of players to choose from. It unfortunately is a top down method rather than a bottom up method. However once put in place the result would pay dividends. With more females wanting to play, watch and support rugby. The rugby product would get better meaning that the TV networks want to buy it more. It is an all-round win.
So am I for a mega franchise yes!
It would mean creating a new home base which for me the logical place is the Renouf Tennis Centre.
Now what would we name it?