NRL politics overshadows approaching finals
ARL Commission Chamirman John Grant. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
With three weeks to go until the NRL finals series gets under way, you would think that the focus would be on said finals series. Alas, it is not.
If the new ARL Commission didn’t have enough problems including finding a new CEO, the small matter of finalising a new television rights deal and the ever declining quality of the refereeing, the chairmen and CEOs of all 16 clubs have decided to gang up on the new bosses of the game.
They have formed up to make what they have called the “NRL Council”.
The story goes that the clubs have the perception that the Commission has not progressed on issues as quickly as they would like through a lack of communication between the parties.
I can understand where the clubs are coming from because without them there is no NRL. And the Commission does seem to be taking a long time to find the new CEO to replace David Gallop… and please don’t get me started on the referees.
The television rights are a different kettle of fish, however, as it is common knowledge that all parties are under strict non-disclosure agreements.
The problem with all of this is that there are mixed messages everywhere. According to Wests Tigers chairman David Trodden, the apparent spokesman of the NRL Council, the clubs have been in favour of the Commission from the beginning.
Trodden says, “The clubs want these guys because they want independence in the decision-making process. They don’t want to tell people how to make the decisions.” Then why go to all this trouble, David?
If the clubs are happy to let the Commission make the decisions, why the big meeting and secretive emails?
With all of the skulduggery going on, you would think that the commissioners would be less than impressed with these developments. But Commission chairman John Grant has actually agreed to meet with this council at quarterly meetings with the first being held on the 27th August, the Monday before the final round of the season.
This may just be a diplomatic move by Grant to alleviate the tension between the governing body and the clubs. The timing of the meeting doesn’t seem to be a strong point for the clubs as there will be next to nothing that they can change or even alter in their favour in regards to any of the supposed issues.
The yet to be appointed CEO is yet to be named but the Commission has said that it would not be someone who has a current affiliation with any club. If this is true, you could assume that they have an eye on a group of people that they feel are suitable.
Just because they are keeping their cards close to their chest doesn’t mean they have no idea. Surely the Commission should be given the right to select a new CEO without having to explain the ins and outs of the selection process with people who are apparently happy for the Commission to make that decision?
Do the clubs feel they should give Gallop’s successor their tick of approval first? That’s definitely the definition of an independent decision in my eyes.
The television deal is still in negotiations but apparently the clubs want to see the agreement before it is signed off. A luxury that was not afforded to them the last time the rights were negotiated.
I’m not sure it will be afforded to them this time either. The clubs showed their hand late last year when they refused to sign agreements to play in the 2012 season unless they were paid additional funding from the game. They signed after a $500,000 bonus was assured to them.
Basically, the clubs want to see what bonus they might be able to swindle out of the coming rights agreement on top of the promised $500,000. They’ll find out how much the rights have been bought for, at the same time we will.
As for the referees, now is the worst time to try to change anything to do with the game’s officials. If the clubs want to enforce anything it will ensure that the finals are refereed differently to the rest of the season.
Before you shout “Hallelujah!” and thank the rugby league gods, think about this – the refs could actually get worse. The men in pink have endured a really tough season this year with blunder after blunder on the field and in the video ref’s box without a whole lot of support from their coaches.
If the Commission gives the referees any new directives and gives in to the clubs, it will only further deteriorate whatever confidence the referees have.
They’re second guessing themselves now; imagine what decisions and possible flare ups that could occur in the pressure cooker environment of a semi-final or worse the grand final? I’m hopeful that the referee’s performances have been noted and that changes are forthcoming, but after the season is over.
The Independent Commission seems to be doing what the clubs wanted them to do, act independently. The problem is the clubs thought they would be kept in the loop, just like the old days when News Limited wasn’t involved with the running of the game.
They might not care as much if there weren’t so many important issues right now, but there are and the clubs want to know where they stand. It’s too early to make a call on the performance of the Commission just yet, but the wait shouldn’t take too much longer.
The appointment of the new CEO and the value of the television rights deal will give all of us a good idea. But until then, the clubs will be at their wits end. Apparently, that’s what they asked for.
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