In February this year, after 18 months of negotiating, Rugby League in Australia finally got itself an Independent Commission to govern the game.
The committee is set to be the new governing body as the marriage between the NRL (the former governing body) and News Ltd (The parasites whose disregard for the game saw a bastardised version of it created, all but decimating near 90 years of hard work) comes to an end.
Its sole purpose is to be ideally, separate from the main competition, the media outlets and every other aspect of the game. A level headed adjudicator essentially.
And so we say adios to a bunch of newspaper businessmen running the game and move into a new era, where the game is governed by the following people:
- Company owner of Data#3 and 1972 Australian World Cup player, John Grant
- Company founder and chairperson of Harris Farm markets, Catherine Harris
- Company chairman of CSR, Jeremy Sutcliffe
- Chief Financial officer and executive director of Leighton Holdings, Peter Gregg
- Former Chairman of QANTAS and the Sydney Olympic Games Committee, Gary Pemberton
- Commentator, former test-player and owner of his own Management Consultancy Company, Wayne Pearce
- Brand Strategist, Ian Elliott
- Indigenous education leader, Dr Chris Sarra
Now I say this with absolutely no disrespect to the people listed above, but how much different is this new committee from that which previously ran the NRL?
6 Business owners/executives, a doctor and a brand strategist.
Another issue with this committee is the guidelines already put in place. Every NRL team has a voice in how the game is run, and rightfully so.
However, the CRL, NSWRL and QRL only have one voice each. These three organizations govern umpteen more teams and players at grassroots level than the 16 NRL clubs do. Essentially what we have here is the NRL clubs dictating how the game is run.
Over the past 14 years the NRL has failed to stand up and defend the game against the media, the disgraceful handling of the game by the primary broadcaster channel 9 and the AFL encroaching into Rugby League's heartland. Some NRL Clubs are struggling financially, players jumping codes for unheard of wages in Australian sport and players moving to England to compete in the Super League.
The whole time, the NRL was focused solely on business and how to make money while doing little listening at all to the hordes of complaints from clubs, players and most importantly, the fans.
The structure of the Independent commission appears to be following a similar path.
Just one simple example is the disregard for people who don't live near their teams' home ground.
A Melbourne Storm fan, living in Melbourne can buy a General Admission membership for $130, giving them access to 12 home games and the usual merchandise.
A Wests Tigers ‘Out-of-towners' membership is $110 and has the same quantity of merchandise and one home game ticket.
Yet the NRL and now the Independent commission has kept silent about this.
In Melbourne last year, channel 9 showed one Melbourne Storm regular season game, two Origin games, Melbourne Storm's finals appearances and a shortened screening of the Grand Final live (no pre-match or post-match shows, no telecast even of the awards ceremony). Every other game and every episode of the Thursday night Footy Show were shown near to midnight and went on through til the early hours of the morning.
The NRL did nothing about this.
And in Round 1, 2012, it happened again. And again nothing was said or done.
This Independent Commission is taking the game further away from the fans and grassroots rugby league.
At least it was possible to contact the NRL. Try and find contact details for the 8 commissioners above other than via their individual companies.
There needs to be a lot of work done and quickly by this new mob, otherwise the game will continue to be mismanaged by business people who have no idea how to govern a sporting organization.