Highlanders-Crusaders cancellation costly

Author
Steve Hepburn - Otago Daily Times,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 19 March 2019, 10:10AM
Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. File photo / ODT
Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. File photo / ODT

The Highlanders believe the right decision was made to cancel the derby game against the Crusaders, even though they will lose a significant sum by not playing.

The franchise said yesterday it did not have insurance to cover the financial losses incurred and many people had to be consulted before the decision was made.

The decision to cancel was described yesterday as a difficult decision.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the game would not be replayed and Saturday was uncharted territory for the franchise and New Zealand Rugby.

"The way Saturday panned out for all of us was something we had never been through before. We had worked out there were a lot of people that had to be consulted; a large number of stakeholders, including the young men who had to go out and play the game," Clark said.

"In the end, we came up with what we all agreed was the right decision."

The onus was on security on Friday night, and to make sure Forsyth Barr Stadium was right to stage the game. But as the day went on, other issues emerged.

"To start with even on the Friday night, the biggest concern was security. So consultation was held with national and local police at all stages — right up to 10.30am on Saturday morning from a police perspective and they were happy for the game to go ahead."

Obviously there were wider issues to canvass, Clark said.

He said the wider issues were the wider Muslim community and whether it was respectful to hold a game of rugby at the time.

The final call was ultimately made by the Sanzaar executive and New Zealand Rugby but other stakeholders such as the sides and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association also had input.

Clark confirmed the Highlanders did not have insurance to cover the financial loss of having to refund all tickets. A crowd of at least 20,000 was expected, likely the Highlanders' biggest of the season.

When asked if he would seek compensation from Sanzaar or New Zealand Rugby, Clark said he did not have an answer.

The Highlanders were back at training yesterday and play the Blues in Auckland on Friday night.

He said an incident at the stadium about noon on Saturday had no bearing on the decision to cancel the game. Police were called after a man was seen acting suspiciously but no further action was taken.

The teams received two competition points each, though the game is likely to be recorded as not being played rather than a draw.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said his heart sunk when he heard of the attack.

Mauger, who comes from Christchurch, had been in contact with family and friends and was glad to say all were safe. He played for the Linwood club, which was close to one of the mosques attacked.

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