In what appears to be a further sign of the continued decline of organised amateur sport in the community, of the 177 Incorporated Societies already dissolved by the Registrar in 2019, nearly a third (a total of 52), are amateur sports clubs. Incorporated Societies are dissolved when the Registrar determines that it “is satisfied that these societies are no longer carrying on their operations”. In simple terms, this means that a club which loses its registered status is no longer meeting the basic requirements to operate as a legally constituted entity.
In practical terms, for a club to be dissolved by the Registrar, a written warning is provided up to 12 months prior to the dissolution, with formal advice of de-registration provided two weeks prior to the actual dissolution occurring. All club de-registrations are publicly notified in the New Zealand Gazette. Between them, Rugby Union, Rugby League and Netball have accounted for 37% of the sports clubs dissolved by the Registrar so far this year.
Touchline was surprised to see the New Zealand Rugby Supporters Club Inc. (the NZRSC), among the list of clubs whose registered status has been revoked in 2019.
For over a decade, the NZRSC has encouraged participation in (and the promotion and support of the initiatives of) affiliated Rugby Supporters Clubs throughout New Zealand. While operating without the financial support of Rugby Union’s provincial or national governing bodies, the NZRSC appears to have been a genuine attempt to grow grassroots support for the game. Regardless of any specific achievements of the body over its ten year history, the fact that it actually existed spoke volumes for the perceived importance of the game to the community.
While the underlying reasons for the NZRSC’s dissolution are not immediately clear, it must be of concern to many supporters of the game that the national body established to encourage their sporting interest has now been deregistered.
The NZRSC was formed in February 2008 “to be the National Body for participating Rugby Supporters Clubs in New Zealand”. According to its registered financial accounts, the NZRSC represented Supporters Clubs located in Auckland, Canterbury, Counties-Manukau, Manawatu, Mid-Canterbury, North Harbour, South Canterbury, Southland, Taranaki and Tasman. (As a note of historical record, the first Rugby Supporters Club was established in Greymouth on the West Coast in 1925).
While there is no doubt that Rugby Supporters Clubs in the provinces still exist, Touchline wonders if enough is being done to promote interest in the game outside of the purely professional clubs, whose motives have little to do with the health of the sport in the community, or the health of the community as a whole.
Touchline notes that among the Rugby Union Clubs dissolved this year is the Flaxmere Rugby & Sports Club (established in 1999), a community club in an area which continues to face a number of serious social challenges. When thinking of community health, sports clubs like Flaxmere (and their supporters) must surely be a cornerstone of any Government policy focused on social well-being.
Whether or not the NZRSC will be revived at some point in the future is an open question; however its dissolution this month only reinforces the growing perception that grass-roots support for community sport is on the wane.