News Corporation's rights to professional rugby bolstered

10 August 1995

Jeff Wilson playing against the Wallabies (www.photosport.co.nz)

All Blacks Josh Kronfeld and Jeff Wilson signed contracts with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), heralding the victory of Rupert Murdoch over Kerry Packer in a battle for the right to televise professional rugby.

The announcement of the Murdoch-backed professionalisation of Southern Hemisphere rugby on 23 June was the latest salvo in a war between the two Australian media magnates. Enraged by Murdoch’s News Corporation’s attempt to take over Australian rugby league, Packer backed the World Rugby Corporation (WRC), which lobbied the world’s best players to join a global competition.

Murdoch’s offer of US$555 million over 10 years for the right to televise South African, Australian and New Zealand rugby depended on the involvement of the same players. Lawyer Jock Hobbs and revered coach Brian Lochore travelled New Zealand making the NZRFU case.

In the previous few days the Springboks had disavowed their contracts with the WRC and Wallabies Tim Gavin and Jason Little had signed up the Australian Rugby Football Union. When Wilson and Kronfeld went with the NZRFU, other All Blacks soon followed. On 27 August the International Rugby Board declared the previously amateur game ‘open’.

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