We all know Mark Arbib as the unseen architect of political alliances and assassinations, a king-maker and a casino peddler.
But the powerful lobbyist also admits to a love of rugby, and earlier this year he somehow found the time to submit a corporate governance review of the ARU.
In his report, he raised important and glaring issues and recommended logical changes which should soon be implemented.
One of the main issues is that NSW and Queensland members are over-represented on the ARU board. As a consequence of this, there is distrust and compromised decision making due to conflicts of interest owing to state allegiances.
This has resulted in polarisation of the ARU and Super Rugby franchises. Although paying someone to find that out is like paying someone to verify whether Bert wears a toupee, it had to be done.
One obvious manifestation of this is the poor co-ordination between the ARU and Super teams when negotiating player contracts.
The process involves a signed contract with the Super Rugby club which can be reneged by the player if he refuses to sign an ARU contract.
Thanks to this two-tier contract system, clubs who are planning their season around a perceived playing roster are finding out after months of preparation that their signed players might not be there next season (Genia and Cooper at the Reds are the current examples).
There are two obvious solutions to this:
1. Centralised control of player contracts
This is what Arbib suggests and would mean that every Super Rugby player is employed by the ARU and has an ARU negotiated contract.
The New Zealand Rugby Union use this model. The advantages of it are its simplicity, and that it ensures the best people are the ones conducting contract negotiations.
This model would involve assigning players to clubs.
Although this would even out the talent, I am concerned about how this would be decided. Would it place too much responsibility on the ARU? And could it result in players slipping through the cracks?
The ARU is not currently not set up to manage 150 players.
2. De-centralised control of player contracts
This would require an increase in the salary cap for the Super Rugby teams, and each province would compete with each other to attract the best players.
Playing for the Wallabies could involve equal match payments for all players (with win bonuses of course).
This would be a similar model to the NRL, which we know can be successful.
However, increased competition or players would require more careful monitoring for cap breaches and club solvency.
I like the idea of equal match payments for Wallaby representation as it would create more of a team atmosphere without the jealousy/disharmony of some players getting paid more to play for their country (after all, clubs would decide what a player is paid).
To be honest, I don’t know which model is best for Australian rugby, but drawn out contract negotiations look unprofessional, occupy players’ minds when they should be concentrating on their game, and impacts clubs’ preparation and therefore their performance.
None of this Cooper drama would have unfolded if his contract was dusted months ago (I feel for the Reds and their supporters if he does the dirty on them). Talk of Genia playing overseas because of the drawn out negotiations is insane.
Get him on board ARU.