The ARL’s AGM in Byron Bay has confirmed the push for the Independent Commission has maintained momentum and that the “Australian Rugby League Commission” (ARCL) could be working before the 2011 competition.
Many are suggesting that Tuesday will mark the announcement of the deal which will seal the fate of rugby league in Australia for the next generation.
While many rugby league fans are wondering why there seems to be continual delays for the formation of the commission, the politically astute are all too aware.
The ARLC model being considered will not just replace the current ARL directorship with independent business people, but will also replace the current ARL ownership structure. Currently the ARL is jointly controlled by elected QRL and NSWRL officials – however the ARLC model will give majority ownership to the 16 current NRL clubs.
While the QRL and NSWRL will retain one single vote each, each of the current 16 NRL clubs will also be given one vote each making the clubs (many of which are privately owned businesses) the dominant shareholder particularly when voting together. And while the clubs cannot select commissioners, they are able to remove any that do not act in the interests of the 16 current clubs.
In November, the Sydney-based NRL clubs began stacking NSWRL board nominations to ensure their clubs’ financial interests will be the focus of negotiations for the ARLC. This successfully saw the removal of several league officials and new club-aligned officials instated. Queensland-based clubs aligned to NRL clubs also threatened turmoil within the QRL; however these threats appear to have been settled.
The QRL has still not formally agreed to the ARLC model and continues to push for a fair deal for non-NRL clubs throughout Queensland and the NSW regions (ironically neglected by the NSWRL and CRL bodies).
In fact, the only sticking point appears to be the guarantee of funding by the club-aligned ARLC to the NSWRL, CRL and QRL to ensure the grass-roots regions are not totally neglected. The quality of this guarantee, no doubt, will be determined by the calibre of the opposing legal teams.
But as would be questioned by the fans of the clubs bartered-away in the post-Superleague deals, how will the ARLC commissioners each vote on matters of expansion when it is the 16 current NRL clubs that hold their fate?
The Broncos ensured they would be the only team in Brisbane through their deal – and the North Sydney Bears were similarly dudded by clubs with their own agendas. The fans of WA and SA were totally disregarded when their teams simply vanished. The ARLC model doesn’t fix these problems – it perpetuates them by enshrining ownership of the game to the interests of the 16 current NRL clubs and not the interests of the game.
Now where’s the independence in that?
While some may think rugby league is “moving forward”, the impending decision, to me, will be a dark day for rugby league.