Gallop era comes to abrupt end
After 10 long and often controversial years as chief executive of the NRL it wasn’t supposed to end like this for David Gallop.
The 46-year-old, a primary figure in the Super League war that changed the face of the game forever, has dealt with betting scams, sex, drug and assault cases involving players, and most famously the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal on his watch – and survived.
However, when it came to working alongside newly-elected Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant and the new seven-person commission, Gallop found himself isolated and ultimately squeezed out as the sport’s most senior administrator.
On a day of high drama on Tuesday at Rugby League Central, the ARL’s plush new offices outside the Sydney Football Stadium, Gallop arrived for work as the chief executive of the ARLC.
He was preparing himself for a speech at a Women In League function on Wednesday and a meeting with NSW coach Ricky Stuart later in the week.
But after a tense morning meeting with Grant and six of the seven committee members, Ian Elliot, Peter Gregg, Catherine Harris, Wayne Pearce, Gary Pemberton and Chris Sarra, he was gone – just four months into a four-year contract.
He informed his stunned staff of the news at lunchtime before a joint media statement was released by Grant and Gallop and a hastily arranged press conference convened at 3.30pm.
Although the news was greeted with shock throughout the game, tensions between Gallop and Grant were no secret.
Gallop, rugby league’s figurehead for over a decade, now had to report to a commission that promised to usher in a new era less than five months ago, and in Grant a ruthless operator who publicly vowed to scrutinise his performance.
Top of his agenda was to oversee a new billion dollar TV deal to rival the one signed by the AFL last year.
But the signs looked ominous for Gallop when the ARLC handed negotiations with broadcasters to Greenhill Caliburn – a leading independent corporate advisory firm, just two weeks ago.
Grant said unconvincingly that Gallop’s departure was a mutual decision, before going on to accuse his tenure of being too reactive.
“If you look at way the game and the NRL was run over 10 years, you have to say it was a reactive business,” Grant said.
“I think business today and the business that has been in the last 10 years is very different to the business that is going to be going forward.”
Gallop, whose press conference took place immediately after Grant, looked mentally drained as he fronted the media throng, but he hit back at Grant’s claim.
“It’s an easy criticism to make, but we’re not just at the end of a conveyor belt that spits out the same thing every hour,” Gallop said.
“You never know what’s coming up and that’s what makes it exciting.”
Gallop maintained he would continue to love the game but in a pointed reference to Grant said: “The game does have a unique ability to attack itself and that passion needs to be harnessed.”
The NRL’s director of strategy and special projects, Shane Mattiske, will take over from Gallop until a replacement can be found.
Grant said the commission would look from inside and outside of the game to find the best candidate.
Well respected Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg has been earmarked as an early favourite and former Football Federation Australia and Australian Rugby Union supremo John O’Neill has also been mentioned.
“I don’t see any reason why we would limit ourselves to any particular set of available people,” Grant said.
“We will look widely but I’d have to say a knowledge of this game, the passion behind it and the influences it has, someone would need to have the experience of it.
“We’ll have the outstanding opportunities to take the business forward and I look forward to that opportunity.”
AAP imc/lf/wk© AAP 2013
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