The burning questions I’d ask ARU CEO Bill Pulver – add yours!

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    The ARU needs your help to plan for the future of the game. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

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    Just where is rugby at in Australia, currently? There’s been so much talk and commentary and opinion over the last 12 months about how perilous the situation is for the game in this country.

    As a fan, you seriously have to wonder sometimes if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

    » ARU CEO Bill Pulver answers your burning questions

    » Live Q&A session with Bill Pulver

    » SPIRO: The ARU Gospel according to Pulver

    Bill Pulver answers your burning questions.

    Bill Pulver live Q&A session.

    For all the doom and gloom – and there’s obviously been a lot if some of the states were so worried about the impact on their marketing of the game that they asked that it cease – I do like that ARU CEO Bill Pulver is speaking in sensible tones. Rugby in Australian needs to be smarter about how it operates, Pulver tells us, and that means that nothing is out of scope when it comes to potential cost savings.

    In many ways, Pulver is on hiding to nothing. Rugby simply could not continue in the manner it had been prior to his arrival or the professional game would go belly up. There were numerous reports late last year that the game was close to insolvency. Maybe it still is. It’s a scary thought.

    However, Pulver also needs a flourishing game for the code to remain a viable professional option. And that’s difficult if there’s no money to spend in the important areas.

    So if I could put some questions to the ARU boss, what would they be?

    Well, I’m glad you asked. I have four.

    Is all the cost-cutting having a positive effect on the game’s finances?
    The States have had their budgets slashed. HQ at St.Leonards in Sydney was downsized last year from two floors to one. Staff numbers have been drastically cut, and the big one, every club in the country has been hit with a $200 levy.

    But is it all working? And how long, or what will it take for rugby’s finances to look healthy again?

    What is Australia’s preferred model for Super Rugby from 2016, and how close will that be to what eventuates?
    We know we’re already looking at 17 teams, and talk continues about an 18th team from Asia being invited into the fold.

    But how will it all work? Are we looking at four conferences and two divisions as has widely been reported, or is one full home-and-away round still a possibility?

    Now that it’s likely the National Rugby Championship will go ahead this year, can we expect a flood of major announcements?
    When the NRC concept was announced, Expressions of Interest were going to close mid-January, with announcements on the number and location of teams a month later. It’s nearly six weeks beyond that point, but only now do we know that the NRC will more than likely go ahead.

    Is rugby doing enough to promote and market itself in Australia?
    Any Super Rugby promotion seems to be localised and dependent on the game. The Super Rugby television ad is sighted as often as the thylacine, and I honestly can’t say if I’ve seen it on free-to-air television at all.

    Is the concept of rugby, let alone actual games, getting in front of enough eyes in Australia?

    The best part of asking these questions? We’re very fortunate that The Roar‘s positive ongoing relationship with the ARU means these questions will be answered in the coming week, by Bill Pulver himself.

    And that’s not all. This article today is not just about my questions, but a call for you Roarers to submit your questions as well. Anything that’s on your mind as far as Australian rugby goes, submit your questions here today in the comments section.

    Wallabies, Super Rugby, National Rugby Championship, club, school, grassroots, Sevens, they’re all in our scope. Finances, marketing, television and media coverage are too.

    Your questions, my questions, along with questions from my expert colleagues including Clyde Rathbone and Spiro Zavos will be collated and sifted, with the best questions forwarded to the ARU this week.

    Bill Pulver’s answers to these questions will appear on the site next Monday, 31 March.

    In addition to scoring the exclusive of the ARU CEO’s answers, The Roar will conduct a Live Q&A session with Bill Pulver on Wednesday, 2 April between 12-1pm.

    It’s extraordinary access we’ve been given to the head of the game in Australia, and we’re very appreciative to the Australian Rugby Union for the opportunity.

    So start with the tough questions today, and mark April 2 down in your diaries. Everything you’ve wanted to ask Bill Pulver could be knocked off over the next week and a half.

    The Roar asked our experts to get the ball rolling.

    Spiro Zavos asks:
    1. What are you doing about the loss of influence with John O’Neill’s resignation from the Rugby World Cup organising comittee? O’Neill had a huge influence on the laws committee, the payment of SANZAR countries for RWC year losses, and the politics of the IRB, such as the RWC 2003 in Australia and 2011 in New Zealand.

    2. What about the poor attitude SANZAR takes to supporters with the local referee system, the clashing jerseys, the lack of promotion of big matches and players and the general way SANZAR keeps everyone out of the loop? SANZAR needs reform – are you going to lead the charge?

    Clyde Rathbone asks:
    What do you consider the single greatest risk to the future of Australian Rugby?

    Scott Allen asks:
    You’ve made significant cuts to the overheads in head office expenditure since you started – how do Australia’s overheads now compare to other top nations?

    » ARU CEO Bill Pulver answers your burning questions

    » Live Q&A session with Bill Pulver

    » SPIRO: The ARU Gospel according to Pulver

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (182)

    • March 24th 2014 @ 7:27am
      FWH said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Hi There,

      Would love to ask Bill Pulver what, if any, are the plans to change the development path in Rugby Union from say the age of 16 onwards. I have seen too often the best talent in rugby be taken to NRL clubs straight out of School, as the pathway and future is so clearly layer out for them Further, those that do stay in Union, are often Athletically; no where near where they need to be to compete against other countries in U’20’s etc. as they have not been in a structured program / training institution.



      • March 24th 2014 @ 10:04am
        Rugby is Life said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:04am | ! Report


        Are you aware of the junior gold rugby competition. It is a national company for u15s and u17′.s. The team have been training since November with leading coaches. Trial were held in October

        This is a good start.

        • March 24th 2014 @ 7:55pm
          FWH said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:55pm | ! Report

          Wasn’t aware of this. I do know of U16’s state champs etc. Are these separate to this ? Or similar to what used to be the National Talent Squad? I’ll have a look into the Junior Gold program.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 1:58pm
        Bill said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

        Fraser my understanding is that a lot of these very good kids are already under contract to NRL clubs who pay their fees

        • March 25th 2014 @ 12:34pm
          Marlins Tragic said | March 25th 2014 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

          Bill, Junior GC is PRIMARALLY aimed at suburban clubs teams, not schools. Schools can ask to have a boy added to the squads though & from what I hear the coaching staff have almost always opted to give the club boys the go over the GPS & ISA schoolboys, they have a development pathway, JGC is the pathway for the non GPS & ISA kids.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 10:13pm
        Bakkies said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

        My question would be what are the ARU going to do to address the under 20s program. As it is I am sure the Australian team has no real competitive warm up fixtures unlike the Europeans who have the under 20s Six Nations and competitive academy and A game fixtures throughout the season. Ireland, Wales and England have stepped up measurably in their skills department. Argentina who have beaten us recently at this level play a three match test series against the Junior Boks. Could Sanzar as a collective organise a competitive under 20s comp to rival the under 20s Six Nations?

        The under 20s team over the past two years like recent Wallaby sides have been stuffed up front.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 7:34am
      Viking said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Is there any chance of some Super Rugby being shown on free-to-air TV? To me that’s one of the biggest impediments to growing the game beyond the traditional rugby viewership.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 10:14am
        Jorji Costava said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        Ditto for me.

        Especially Melbourne Rebels live on FTA every week back into Victoria to create a groundswell of interest. At the moment, the Melbourne Ice and Mustangs ice hockey clubs get more interest. There is just no coverage at all, so they need to shake things up a bit to create a groundswell.

        Let’s face it, there is probably only a handful of people in Victoria that would subscribe to Foxtel in order to get rugby union.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 11:55am
        Cunny Funts said | March 24th 2014 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        And me. I’d love to see Super Rugby on FTA. I don’t have fox, so miss most of the games that I’d like to watch if I could. Rugby NEEDS it, arguably more than it anything else it needs right now.

        But I’d want a better broadcast than what 10 has been offering for the Wallabies of late. Having ads that interrupt the game is downright rude.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 1:45pm
        Minz said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        +1. JON’s big mistake for mine – when the game was flush with money and interest after the 2003 world cup, hiding it away on pay TV, which just isn’t that popular in Australia, was a huge error.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 3:29pm
        clipper said | March 24th 2014 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

        Agree with these sentiments – as Minz says pay TV just isn’t that popular in Australia and although there may be good money in exclusive pay TV rights, you’re cutting off quite a large section of the population. Surely there could be some way to get at least a game or two FTA each week, apart from the Wallabies.

        • March 24th 2014 @ 11:28pm
          DMac said | March 24th 2014 @ 11:28pm | ! Report

          Add me to the list. Without fta coverage rugby will continue to wither and die. No one hears anything about it.

          Oh, and ask him if he can promise to never let channel 9 near the wallabies again please.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 7:42am
      Adam Julian said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Has there ever been any suggestion of Super Rugby adding an Under 21 competition like the Holden Cup?

      What is being done to address concussion issues and do you foresee trouble in rugby like they have had in the NFL?

    • March 24th 2014 @ 8:11am
      BennO said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Tell him we love his official photo!

      Oh and is there a strategy to get past rugby’s historical elitist attitude and reach ordinary Australia?

      • March 24th 2014 @ 2:44pm
        Minz said | March 24th 2014 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

        All the rugby clubs I’ve been involved with have been very blue collar (very much “ordinary Australia”). Is the elitist bit reality or just perception?

        • March 24th 2014 @ 8:11pm
          Crazy Horse said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

          It depends on where the club is located geographically.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:19pm
        Rugby stu said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

        My understanding has always been the schools are what keep the game narrow and elitist and the clubs do a fair bit too bring it down to earth (as in everyday people), its an odd dichotomy.

    • Roar Guru

      March 24th 2014 @ 8:12am
      Jiggles said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      Q. Bill, could you please provide a new profile picture to the roar? Your current one is disturbing.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:46am
        BetterRedThanDead said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Pleased to see that I am not the only one to think this also. Very Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family…

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:53am
        Markus said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        I can’t agree. The more serious the level of discourse in the accompanying article, the more out of place and amusing the photo becomes.

        If anything, it isn’t used enough.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 10:07am
        Rugby is Life said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        I am with you Jiggles. The photo looks like he is one of the leads in Glee. Just helps to undermine my confidence and confirms the reports I get back on his disconnectedness from anything but the Wallabies

        • March 24th 2014 @ 1:25pm
          colvin said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

          Is there any way Roar could direct Bill’s sultry and knowing gaze towards the big and strong blond lady, Portrait of the Female Body, that Roar is promoting.

          It would show us all what our potential success could be if we all developed a sultry gaze like Bill.

          • March 24th 2014 @ 6:13pm
            In Brief said | March 24th 2014 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

            Anyone troubled by the photo is clearly struggling with latent homoerotic tendancies.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 8:29am
      Sailosi said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Bill, could you please put a blanket ban on the stupid Australian term “running rugby”.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:21pm
        Mst said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

        Could we also have the Term “x factor” banned!

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