Losing All Blacks nothing to fear
In a surprise move, a group of the top 1 percent of male New Zealand income earners are appealing for the Government to give them special tax breaks and extra funding in order to entice them to stay in New Zealand. In the absence of these tax breaks it is feared our favourite All Blacks will move overseas and take their skills and international branding with them. For some it is the difference between earning 1 million a year or 3 million a year.
The argument goes that the external benefits of these specific tax breaks and extra funding will far outweigh the costs to the New Zealand taxpayer. We will all apparently benefit from the players staying here, spending and investing their skills in brand “All Blacks,” presumably ensuring the ABs remain the roaring success they currently are. In turn, overseas people will realise that New Zealand exists and buy more of what New Zealand produces, and choose to come visit. The non-financial benefits include the opportunity for us all to feel good about living in a country that dominates at an internationally obscure sport, bolsters our Super Rugby teams and gives our male children something to dream about becoming in the future. A win-win for everyone (but especially them).
I would argue that brand New Zealand benefits when our top sportspeople become part of the global game/economy
Except it’s not. It is simply foolish to give the All Blacks tax breaks or further funding to ensure their elite players remain in New Zealand. The reality is that it doesn’t hurt New Zealand if our top players decide to move overseas. If anything I would argue that brand New Zealand benefits when our top sportspeople become part of the global game/economy, just as it benefits New Zealand when our top entrepreneurs and academics do so. We should celebrate their success and try to leverage these international connections for all they are worth. Certainly for the player, in a game where your potential to earn can be measured in years rather than decades it makes financial sense for them to choose the money. Some will choose to stay and receive an All Blacks World Cup jersey and possibly a knighthood instead.
Thankfully, the government has signalled that it won’t be giving additional support to the All Blacks in the short term at least. If it were to consider increasing its financial commitment to sport, almost anything would be a better choice than paying millions more to our highest paid athletes. We could give primary school sports funding a boost. We could ensure our children are not hungry after sports at school so they can focus on their studies as well. We could do more to support young women in their sporting goals. Rather than using taxpayer money to try to fearfully shore up our elite contracts against European poachers, we should look first to supporting quality sporting opportunities for young New Zealanders. Supporting the next generation of athletes should mean we lose our fear of exporting All Blacks to global opportunities. That is a win win.