If Australian rugby can be broken, it can be fixed (Part 2): The next leader

Tahriffic Roar Rookie

By , Tahriffic is a Roar Rookie


7 Have your say

    Rugby has to break free of the perception that it is an elitist, private schoolboy game.

    Iconic companies embody the values of their leaders: Virgin is Richard Branson, Apple is (was?) Steve Jobs, Amazon is Jeff Bezos, as Donald Trump is The Apprentice (let’s avoid all the Trumpisms of making rugby great again – rugby is great!).

    Many of these big companies, while running huge profits, don’t pay a dividend. Instead, they reinvest their earnings back into new projects and rely on the capital appreciation of their stock.

    Why can’t rugby reinvest in its own grassroots? After all, by name and definition, it is a union. Profit, TV rights and results are an outcome – important yes, but a union is run for the benefit of its own members, contra to a market.

    A white male with career experience in banking, while ‘qualified’, isn’t exactly going to break the shackles of rugby’s perception that it’s an elitist game. It isn’t really going to sell to a kid growing up in western Sydney, who dreams of playing in the NRL.

    Let’s find someone who inspires confidence – no nonsense, willing to get their hands dirty, and work from the ground up. Whoever takes over will also have to address the Sydney dilemma, where everyone seems to give a generic excuse not to do something.

    Someone who embodies core values which is just confined to rugby union, but sport in general, would be an exemplar candidate.

    The case for centralisation and transparency
    A divide exists between club rugby and the ARU. The fundamental reason a team breaks down is due to an absence of trust and, as it stands, neither the ARU nor administrators seem to be responding to one another.

    For the game to succeed, a collaborative approach is required from all key stakeholder, where we unite on a common objective. Costs can be streamlined, value chains compressed, profits reinvested in human capital. This is sorely lacking where there isn’t a mechanism that allows a decentralised chain of command to take ownership of the game’s future.

    Both clubs, states and the ARU have a reciprocal role to play in making this happen – the case for centralisation of rugby union couldn’t be more needed.

    As it stands, club rugby doesn’t have a material scorecard where the ARU knows how to monitor or track performance. There is sufficient data systems and technology out there to facilitate this, but there isn’t anyone really out there thinking differently on how to marry the clubs, states and national body, and how to thoroughly track all of the talent.

    So why don’t clubs compete for the fundamental reason why any sport prospers: human capital and participation rates.

    In sport, access to talent is your currency, so make clubs compete for juniors and participation rates, providing initiative to take ownership of participation.

    In return, the ARU can grant new territories or zones for the clubs that are growing the game to have a bigger share of the talent pool. We’ll help everyone evenly with financial grants in hosting school camps, paying scouts – finances are distributed evenly assuming the ARU can stump the cash.

    As a substitute, have a correction mechanism for such as a player draft. This may be a restraint of trade, however at least it ensures the game remains competitive and we don’t see cricket scores like we currently have with Penrith in the Shute Shield.

    Resources need to be centrally allocated, but power and decision-making processes must be shared. Clubs can also compete internally for grants or funding – it doesn’t necessarily have to be monetised.

    Clubs can be incentivised for participation rates, contracting players from other codes or establishing networks with clubs in the bush – look at the AFL and how they allocate resources, it works!

    Hesitation and bureaucracy are costing both parties time and money, which is having a precipitative effect and dominating the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

    A ground-up approach could grow the game. Clubs can be rewarded or incentivised based on a mechanism where they compete for resources – have clubs being responsible for developing and growing the game independent of funding of the ARU.

    A mark of a great company is how they turn around problems. There isn’t any point lashing out on social media, nobody can do anything at that point. A governance model and the case for a centralisation, similar to that of England or New Zealand, is pivotal for the game to prosper and inspire a sense of can-do-it-ness for all member unions.