All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan believes the relationship is broken between New Zealand Rugby and the Players Association as the standoff over the $465 million Silver Lake deal continues.
The two organisations are in mediation over US investment firm Silver Lake's bid to buy 15 per cent of NZR. The NZRPA has threatened to block the deal, saying New Zealand rugby's Māori and Pasifika culture is "not for sale", and it is worried a deal could ruin the sport's relationship with fans.
Speaking on Sky Sport's The Breakdown, the former All Black winger and Blues coach said the fundamental issue of the situation was that the "relationship is broken" between NZRPA boss Rob Nichol and NZR.
"How can you start with mediation?" Kirwan queried.
"Maybe we need to have a change. NZR have had a change and maybe RPA need a change. I just don't think that relationship is working.
"This is valuing the commercial side of our game."
The show's host Jeff Wilson, outlined three potential outcomes to the mediation - the players agreeing to the deal, blocking the deal, or even getting locked out if NZR decide to rip up the Collective Agreement.
"Now that is extreme," Wilson said.
"You start looking at locking out players, players going on strike. Now that is something we don't want to get to."
Last week, former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick told Breakfast Silver Lake "looks like a very good deal".
He said, “what is quite clear is that we need investment in New Zealand Rugby” because the game was, in his view, “not sustainable, globally not just here in New Zealand”.
Fitzpatrick did not share concerns from the Players Association that the deal could damage the relationship between New Zealanders and NZ Rugby’s brands, most notably the All Blacks.
“I don’t see that at all. I only see it enhancing our game,” he said.
“I’m a fan, you and I are shareholders. We talk about the five million shareholders of the All Blacks and NZ Rugby and that’s how I see it. This is only going to enhance it.
“Make the NZ Rugby brand, which are all their brands, much better. I just can’t see how that is going to harm the fabric of our game, which we’re injecting money into the grassroots.”
The US investment firm’s current portfolio includes a 10 per cent stake in the owners of English football powerhouse Manchester City, and a similar stake in the owners of the NBA's New York Knicks.
Fitzpatrick said Silver Lake’s expertise in growing sporting businesses is what NZ Rugby needs.
“It is a great opportunity to grow the game, not just here in New Zealand, but grow it globally, grow the fanbase. That’s what they’re good at is that technical expertise at growing the fanbase,” he said.
“How do we consume the game? The content they create engages people, which is what we need.”