ROAR EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Peter Holmes a Court

70 Have your say

    John Sutton celebrating his team's win. AAP Image/Action Photographic, Renee McKay

    Related coverage

    The Roar asked some questions of South Sydney Rabbitohs joint owner Peter Holmes a Court, about his association with the club, the controversial takeover at Redfern, and how he thinks the team is faring this season.

    You remain a joint owner at South Sydney, but you are no longer a director. How actively involved are you with Souths these days?

    “Nothing beats a live game, but league looks pretty good on my laptop. This week I watched the two ANZAC day games with a coffee in my hand, such is the time difference. [Eds note: Peter is currently based in Europe]

    “Russell and I invested through a company, Blackcourt League Investments, and we appoint 4 Directors to the Rabbitohs Board of 7. We are extremely fortunate for the work of our appointees – Keith Rodger, Martin Crowe, media executive Angela Clark, and accountant Anthony Bell.

    “Combined with the representatives of the Members and Souths Juniors, we have a strong team around the board table.

    “The right way for an owner to interact with any investment is through its Board. That’s who management reports to and that ensures proper governance throughout the organisation.

    “Our job as owners was to set up the structures, which is what Russell and I did after we bought the team, and then gradually step back to let the right people do their jobs.

    “There are many impressive people in the Rabbitohs’ off-field team — on the Board, in management, in the coaching staff — and they must be given the best opportunity to do their job.

    “I am, of course, always here to help when asked and I know Russell’s support to the Club has never been questioned.”

    Looking back on it all, do you still think the takeover by you and Russell Crowe was the right thing to do at the time and was it all done the right way?

    “I don’t mean this to sound dramatic, but it is my belief that if someone hadn’t done something, the Rabbitohs as we know them (an independent team, in Sydney, in red and green) would not be around today.

    “Opinions will differ on this.

    “But I saw an organisation with increasing annual operating losses, accelerating in its downward spiral in every measurement. Then the global economic slowdown hit in 2007/8.

    “I just can’t imagine how they could have come through those years intact.

    “Was it ‘all done the right way?’ An answer to your question is ‘yes.’ If you’d worded the question as ‘could it have been done better?’, then the answer would be, ‘of course it could have’.

    “Let me explain.

    “In an extended crisis, such as what we experienced, there are never perfect choices. Things are never able to be done ‘all the right way’. You just have to act.

    “There are just things that have to be tried; strategies that have to be pursued. When the final whistle blows, when the dust settles, the historically inclined often ask: ‘Should the battalion have been ordered left or right?’ ‘Should the pricing been set higher or lower?’ ‘Should the captain have chosen to play into the wind or with it?’

    “In reality, you fight what you can see, you do what seems right on the facts that you have in front of you.

    ‘In America, they call it Monday morning quarterbacking; sitting back after the game and calling the plays.

    “In reality, the plays are always made on the field and they are never made perfectly.”

    What do you make of Souths’ start to the 2012 NRL season?

    “I reckon we’ve had a tough draw so far. We’ve tested some of the competition leaders and dispatched some teams that I hope we can finish above. The biggest challenges, as always, lie ahead.

    “I have been enjoying watching the work of our new coach, Michael Maguire, and his development of players who have been with us for a number of years, as well as new recruits and younger players.

    “I am looking forward to Michael writing his own piece of Rabbitohs history.”

    What does coach Maguire bring to the club that Lang, Taylor and co. didn’t?

    “Michael doesn’t say much publicly, but when he does say something, it’s careful and thoughtful. I’ll let him do his talking.”

    Given the well-publicised problems at the Titans, and with several NRL clubs previously, does it make financial sense, purely from a business perspective, to invest significant money into a rugby league club or is it more an investment of passion?

    “I’ve said before and I will say it again: sport isn’t a business, it is more important than that.

    “What I mean by that is that we have to be much more than just a business. It is a given that we have to operate efficiently if we are to survive and do the important stuff a Club can do as part of our community.

    “There is absolutely no logic to the idea that Clubs should operate as softheaded boys clubs when they are doing business with highly developed, ruthless corporations.

    “Our media deals, our stadium deals, our sponsorship deals, are with the largest corporations and media companies in the world, and if we aren’t first rate, we won’t get a good outcome for anybody.

    “The Rabbitohs were a long way from a world-class sporting practice. It is now well on the way to this standard.

    “The game of rugby league in Australia has survived in spite of an outdated, inefficient structure that meant it has lagged its southern rival on most measures. This under-performance was the inevitable product of a structure that has now — thanks to much hard work on all sides — been changed.

    “The creation of the Independent Commission is the biggest thing to happen to the game in many years.

    “Rugby league once again belongs to everyone: from the coach of a junior team to an elite player in Green and Gold, to every Member of an NRL Club.

    “The AFL, which formed its Independent Commission in the 80s, has got a 25 year jump on us. But I am confident that league can make up that ground in the next decade.

    “The AFL has done a great job with game attendance and membership growth.

    “The Rabbitohs will hopefully reach 22,000 members this year. If every member attracts, converts (or breeds) just one other member over the next five years, we will be at 40,000 members by 2017.

    “The goal must be higher, but if every team can achieve similar growth, that’s a very exciting future for the game.

    “It remains incredibly rewarding to be involved in this great Club and I look forward to a bright future for league and, of course, the Rabbitohs.

    “But right now, I’m just looking forward to nursing a coffee on Saturday morning and watching the broadcast from ANZ stadium.”

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (70)

    • April 27th 2012 @ 6:12am
      Johnno said | April 27th 2012 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      No mentions of George Piggins in the interview. Did George hold souths back who knows, he didn’t seem to have a global attitude, or like pay tv too much

    • April 27th 2012 @ 7:40am
      Godfrey said | April 27th 2012 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      George Piggins left the football club in March 2003. That’s nearly 10 years ago. Nick Pappas took over and he is still the chairman. Pappas has won 3 from 9 wooden spoons. In 2006, the year Crowe and Holmes a Court took over the club, it had liabilities of just $1,909,889. As of 31/10/11 the liabilities had grown to a massive $10,643,118. That liabilities have grown by $1.4 million a year demonstrates that the club is going backwards, not progressing. Add to that the on-field failure, given that Souths is the only NRL club over the last 4 years not to have made the finals, and you see that Souths is more about Hollywood hype than any measurable success. Not to forget that the club’s property arm High Concept Commercial is in receivership and that all the club’s real estate assets – the 4-level building, the 198 space car parking station, and 10 home units – have been sold, in contradiction of Holmes a Court’s undertaking in 2006 that rental charges from them would secure the club’s financial future. And who can forget the fiasco that is the broken promises of the Souths leagues club development? Hopefully, one day journalists will have the courage to tell the real story about the garbage searches, Palladino & Sutherland, and the faked death threats.

    • April 27th 2012 @ 8:54am
      Terry Murphy said | April 27th 2012 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      That self-assessment by Holmes a Court is about as credible as how News Ltd investigate themselves and find nothing. The fact is that Souths remain a bottom half of the table club and $millions upon $millions have been spent to achieve that very low benchmark.

      I’ve seen most of what Godfrey has said written up in news articles written by credible journalists. I reckon that, plus Peter Holmes a Court living in France and selling up all his Australian property means he is getting ready to bail out of Souths.

    • Editor

      April 27th 2012 @ 9:49am
      Zac Zavos said | April 27th 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us Peter.

      The Roar

    • April 27th 2012 @ 9:53am
      The Spook said | April 27th 2012 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Thank God for people like Godfrey, all one has to do is to look at the way Crowe and Holmes a Court conducted themselves during the takeover process. The broken promises are memorable, from never closing the Leagues Club, which ended up being closed for nearly 4 years to not delivering the Hall of Fame. No one should ever forget the no poker machine policy, what happened to that ? It has been reported in newspapers that the contractors who carried out the renovations at the new leagues club have not been paid and that the club may well be closed, it also appears that the leagues club is trading while insolvent!
      As for the football club, the results on the field have not improved since the take over, even Cronulla have been in the finals more often than Souths. How many coaches have been changed and with each replacement comes the promise that this is the coach to deliver.
      We should all remember the huge promotion Crowe and Holmes a Court made regarding the exploitation of the cheer girls and the introduction of the drummers, what happened to them? Also the food caterers that Crowe employed to make sure all players were eating the correct diet, this died as well, more bravado !
      As for George Piggins, no one should forget this man mortgaged his owned home for the leagues club, he coached the football team for nothing and yet he is treated like a criminal. All one has to do is look at the figures Godfrey has quoted and answer the questions yourself, I am sure you will come to the same conclusion I have and that is, Crowe and Holmes a Court are running the place into the ground, there are no assets left.

      • April 27th 2012 @ 11:02am
        clipper said | April 27th 2012 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        The Spook – I doubt the club would be trading whilst insolvent – there are too many serious issues for the club and board personally for this to happen. I would assume there would be some guarantee or loan in place to ensure this is not the case.
        It is very hard to run a club these days, and many are being taken over or going under each year. This signing in nonsense is crazy in this day and age – it may have had a justification when the clubs had pokies, but now all the pubs have them in droves, it really disadvantages the clubs, especially the smaller ones, who have to be vigilant lest some inspector comes around wanting to see all the membership details and make sure no one has snuck in who is closer than 5 kms away without joining up.

        • April 27th 2012 @ 12:17pm
          The Spook said | April 27th 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

          The amount of money the club owes is far beyond just what the club can afford to pay back, I believe the amount that has been borrowed is somewhere in excess of $10 million, even if they borrowed it at say 9% (commercial rates) that is $900,000 a year in interest. There is no way in hell that the club can pay the interest on the loan, proof of that is they cannot even pay the poor tradesmen that rebuilt the place!
          At no stage in the club’s history has it been in such a dire position.
          As far as signing in at clubs this process has been in place for many, many years, it did not start when Crowe and Holmes a Court took over and remember these two jokers wanted to get rid of the poker machines, that is until they realised that the patrons liked them and that they actually generated profit that is badly needed.
          As it is I went to the club recently on a Sunday morning and when I asked if I had to sign in, I was told not to worry about it, they just do not know how to run a club, it is obvious.
          They are finding out that you cannot borrow your way out of debt.
          The poor old members loose out again, but who cares!

    • April 27th 2012 @ 10:13am
      Godfrey said | April 27th 2012 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      Holmes a Court was sued for defamation by George Piggins for what he said about the club before it was privatised. Holmes a Court was forced to settle out of court because his allegations were false. Holmes a Court had to pay Piggins damages and all the legal costs. In fact, Piggins won all 5 court cases for defamation they took against Holmes a Court and his helpers. Peter Holmes a Court couldn’t put up so he should now shut up. Besides, the club’s financial figures speak for themselves. Morbid debt and question mark insolvency.

    , , , ,