Even by Wayne’s standards, this was tense.
Popular opinion views the Independent Commission as a change for the better in rugby league. Fans have been told that the existing system was flawed, allowing News Ltd to control the game for its own gain.
Fans have also been told that the Independent Commission will return the game to the people and allow an unbiased management to set it on a course for future prosperity. But this popular view is now being revealed as the fantasy it is.
The Independent Commission, as it is has been structured, is actually a group of individuals who will be forced to dance to the tune of the 16 NRL clubs or face being replaced by puppets that will. The devil was in the detail which gave the voting power for the election and replacement of commissioners to the 16 NRL clubs. After all, it was the 16 NRL clubs that proposed the structure of the Independent Commission.
The NSWRL, the CRL and the QRL will not have the ability to override these 16 clubs if they vote as a bloc. Therefore, the only logical end to any disagreement is that the Independent Commission must yield to the will of the clubs or else the individual commissioners will face being replaced over time with those that will.
Another popular myth is that it is the 16 NRL clubs that give rugby league the high profile, and therefore those clubs should reap the rewards. But it is the competition, not the participating clubs, that creates the public interest and any team that is admitted to the competition will benefit from their inclusion.
The competition is not reliant on any particular club to be successful – not the Gold Coast Titans, not the Parramatta Eels, not the North Sydney Bears.
The ARL, NSWRL, CRL and QRL were supposed to be the guardians of the game. These organisations were supposed to take from the rich and give to the poor, ensuring the grassroots of the game remained nurtured and respected.
But the administrators of the day sold out on the game and along with it the lifeblood of regional rugby league. The 16 NRL clubs will now control the game and the money generated by the national premiership – regional rugby league is to be abandoned.
A third myth is that some of the 16 NRL clubs are broke – financially stricken despite their prominence and on-field success. Any accountant will be able to explain that the playing club and the licensed club are two separate entities and explain how proceeds are distributed between them.
Behind every poor playing club you’ll find a rich licensed club that owns the ground, the facilities, the rights to the club logo and a willingness to lease all of them to the playing club for however much it takes to make the playing club profits equal zero. The clubs are not broke, but it is a great justification for a massive increase of funding courtesy of the not-so-Independent Commission.
This week’s demand for the allocation of $6 million to each club may not eventuate in full and a convenient negotiation may reach a compromise, but the writing is on the wall. The Independent Commission will be puppets of the 16 NRL clubs.
They will not be able to distribute funds to the grass roots as previous league bodies were able to and, as for geographic expansion of the premiership at the expense of existing clubs, think about it…