There has been much confusion over the structure of the Independent Commission, probably caused by the use of this phrase over the past few years. Sadly, the NRL Commission is anything but independent.
While the eight commissioners will make the big decisions of the game, it is the 16 NRL clubs that decide whether any of the commissioners are to get the chop.
Not even the traditional custodians of the game, the NSWRL and the QRL, can stop the 16 clubs removing them.
For the removal of any commissioner, no commissioners get a vote. There are 18 votes to remove a commissioner:
– 16 votes from the 16 NRL clubs (1 each)
– 1 vote from the NSWRL (representing the thousands of NSW clubs)
– 1 vote from the QRL (representing the thousands of QLD clubs)
The removal of a commissioner can only be successful if either:
– 10 clubs, plus the NSWRL, plus the QRL agree; or
– 14 clubs agree.
Just 14 NRL clubs can decide to remove a commissioner – even if the remainder of the rugby league community supports the views of that commissioner.
This removes the power of the game’s true representation, especially the grass roots or emerging regions.
If a commissioner’s view is that a Sydney club should be removed or relocate so that another region can be represented, just 14 NRL clubs could remove them from their ‘independent’ position.
Similarly, if a commissioner believes more money should be given to grass roots development and less to the wealthy NRL clubs, the clubs may decide to remove that commissioner.
Importantly, the CEOs of the 16 NRL clubs are paid to look after the interests of their clubs – not the game of rugby league. If they don’t attempt to block any move against their club, they would be acting against their employer’s interests.
The formalised allegiance of the 16 NRL clubs will ensure they prosper as they will vote together to remove any commissioner who doesn’t look after them.
Unfortunately, the NRL Commission is not independent. It is beholden to the wishes of just 16 clubs and it will prove to be a toothless tiger when it comes to issues such as geographical expansion or financial fairness if either come at the expense of the current group of 16 clubs.