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'Definition of madness': Rugby reform must start with total cleanout of RA board - and this should happen next

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Roar Rookie
22nd April, 2024
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12190 Reads

Last week I wrote an article in The Roar which articulated the dreadful shortcomings of the Rugby Australia Board over the past few years.

I must have struck a nerve as it received over 11,000 reads and more than 500 comments. The comments were interesting and I felt generally in support of change. I hope this article answers many of the questions asked.

Of course, not everyone agreed with the article and some noted my age. Actually, two of us involved in the Supporters of Australian Rugby Reform (SOARR) are over 80, but we both have extensive experience with rugby and rugby governance and administration.

One of our group is very experienced and has been on both the RA and WA Rugby Boards whilst another of our group is a world leading sport governance and constitutional expert.

It is important to note, none of our group has any barrow to push, there is no group or state or person we are promoting. Our goal is for open and transparent governance and administration. We want a Board selected by the rugby population of Australia. A Board of the best people Australian rugby people can find.

The closed shop process allowed under the present constitution has delivered a Board of financiers, bankers, eg Phil Waugh, and professional Board operatives. We need people with the skills to develop and financially sustain the game from the grass roots up to the revenue-earning Wallabies.

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 Phil Waugh. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

The previous and current Board, whilst well meaning, have lacked the skills to run a game like rugby and have taken rugby in Australia into a near terminal decline.

Without a total change, a full cleanout, only more of the same will occur. Talk of stability and experience is fatuous, these are the people that have created the crisis. A definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The process for effecting this change is not complex. There is an Annual General Meeting on the 29th April. At this AGM the people who vote for the Board are known as the Member Unions. There are 14 votes in all, eight State / Territory unions, three Super Rugby franchises and RUPA, (Professional player association). NSW and Qld have two votes each.

Under the current constitution three Directors are up for reelection. This is by virtue of the three-year rotation system. There are two new nominations to replace Hamish McLennan and Phil Waugh. These people have been endorsed by the so-called Nominations Committee, a three person committee chaired by the RA Chairman and designed to keep Board selection in house and as a closed shop.

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If these candidates were successful, it would mean seven out of the nine directors would be from the disastrous Board of the past three years. That means no renewal, more of the same.

By any measurement, financial position, participation, skill levels, coaching pathways or world rankings the Board of RA has been a disaster for rugby in Australia. Australian rugby needs new ideas, new perspectives, a new direction.

We propose the Member Unions reject the Nominations Committee recommendations and move a vote of No Confidence. This means a Special General meeting to formally spill the Board. At this meeting an interim Board with an interim Chairman would be installed.

We propose that an Interim Board be installed by the Voting Members and it be comprised as follows:

  • One nominee from NSWRU
  • One nominee from QRU
  • One nominee (or two) nominees from the other States/ Territories MUs (WA, ACT, Vic, NT, SA, Tas)
  • One nominee from a Super Team (whose State or Territory is not yet represented)
  • Two Directors selected by the above four to help complete the skill mix.
  • The CEO to attend Board meetings and be part of developing solutions but not be MD, that is, no vote.
    There would be the opportunity to draft specialised skilled people as required.

We advocate the Interim Board’s tenure would be 12 months and its mandate would be:

  • Review the governance structure and the Constitution of RA in consultation with the wider Rugby community
  • Conduct a forensic review and analysis of the RA and Super Team finances, including appropriate financial risk analysis. This would include analysing the debt facility and dependance on future events.
  • Implementation of a policy of ‘spending within our means’
    Review the competition structure
  • Overhaul the coach development system
  • Overhaul the Elite Youth Program
  • Review the organisational structure of RA
  • All the above to be undertaken with complete transparency and accountability to the rugby community
  • The day to day administration of RA that is the responsibility of RA management, through the CEO, will be monitored by the interim Board as a matter of course.
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We believe this course of action will stabilise the decline of the rugby game in Australia. A complete reset has been asked for several times before but the request for stability and coming together has seen continuing disasters.
The group known as Supporters of Australian Rugby Reform, SOARR has a Facebook page and if you go to change.org and search for SOARR you can join a petition for change, complete a survey on the state of rugby in Australia or view the Facebook page and the detailed analysis which prompted our actions.

Now is the time for a complete reset, rugby in Australia cannot sustain more of the same.

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