The Roar
The Roar

Bill Pulver

Expert

Joined March 2014

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Hi everyone,

I’d like to thank you all for participating in today’s Q&A and my apologies for my pathetic typing skills limiting the number of questions I could answer in one hour.

These are the issues that matter to you, and this has been a great opportunity to hear directly from you. I do enjoy this type of forum as an opportunity to discuss the issues affecting our game openly and honestly.

Thanks for your ongoing support and passion for our great game – I’ve enjoyed the session and look forward to doing it again soon.

Kind regards, Bill

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

Peter, I agree that it would be great to have some Super Rugby games on free-to-air TV, despite the fact that Fox Sports are great partners for Rugby in Australia.

This is one of the issues we hope to address in the next broadcast rights negotiation.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

With the advent of the NRC, we now have a local product to compete with the ITM Cup and the Currie Cup.

Given the current global Rugby calendar, it is difficult to see where we could fit cross-competition matches, but it’s certainly something we should explore in the future with our SANZAR partners.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

Ultimately, my objective is to create a sustainable financial model for Australian Rugby.

To achieve this, will imply that our national teams are performing well and that we have participation levels growing at a rate that preserves the long-term health of the game.

To be more specific, I want to see lots of young boys and girls enjoying our game and continuing to see all levels of Rugby flourish (for example, schools, club etc).

In the immediate future for the elite level, we must win a Bledisloe Cup, in 2015 – we want to win the Rugby World Cup and in 2016 – I would like to see our men’s and women’s Sevens team on the podium at Rio.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

This is one of those sensitive issues that I’m sure the relevant NRC syndicate will address. However, I do understand both sides of this debate.

On the one hand, you have the Canberra Rugby community wanting to have a broadly representive choice of playing kit and on the other, you have the Canberra Vikings who are contributing significant resources to this syndicate.

I must say though, it’s great to see the passion that has been generated by this debate – and I wish the team every success in arriving at a compromise!

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

One of the things we all need to understand is that we operate in the world’s most competitive winter sport market. No other Rugby country has to deal with AFL, NRL and soccer pursuing their fans.

In my view, what worked historically for this game, was successful Wallaby team playing smart creative running Rugby that captured the hearts and minds of fans.

There are a lot of things that Rugby administrators can do better, including careful use of funds and resources, effective engagement with juniors at schools, superior promotion of the game etc.

However, at the end of the day, we have fans that want to be entertained and if our product (Rugby) fulfils their needs, they’ll continue to support us.

If we don’t entertain them, they have plenty of alternatives to consider.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

This is an issue we will work on with the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) and will ultimately see the balanced distribution of Super Rugby players across the nine teams.

One of the objectives, is to ensure a good contest between well-balanced teams in this competition.

Another objective is to create a pathway for development of our young player talent.

So I’m hoping that the approach taken by the NRC clubs will be to start with their young potentials, playing Rugby in their local markets, and then look to supplement them with Super Rugby players to create a well-balanced and competitive team.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

For the period of 2016-2020, we do envisage in the expansion of the number of teams from 15 to 18, with the involvement of Argentina, a sixth South African team and one other to be determined by SANZAR.

While this is not been resolved at a SANZAR level at this stage, further expansion would be up for consideration over the next ten years or so.

In short, we would like Super Rugby to remain the most pre-eminent provincial Rugby competition in the world.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

Our most recent example of a private equity investment was with the Melbourne Rebels, with a syndicate led by Harold Mitchell, owned and controlled the Rebels until late last year.

I remain extremely grateful for the contribution of Harold and other investors, because without their support, the ARU would have been required to fund the Rebels throughout this period.

In the event that we find new investors eager to consider opportunities in Australian Rugby, we would review all of their proposals on their merits.

Separately, we do have have plans to ‘tap into’ business networks and high net worth individuals to support Rugby in the future. You’ll hear more about this later in the year.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

The short answer is yes, we’d likely to see rugby available in every school. The reality, however, is that we compete with every other sporting code for this relationship with the schools

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

Thanks Harry.

In relation to the club levy – this was an extemely difficult issue to deal with. In short, we feel it is critical to continue funding community Rugby for the development of our game, and yet when you are financially constrained, this can be a challenge. As a consequence, rather than cutting the funding, we decided to impose a levy across our playing population, in order that those great people and volunteers working in Rugby development roles can continue their good work.

Other sports have implemented similar levies, without negatively impacting participation rates. At this stage, it’s unlikely this will be a one-off levy.

Overseas players – think we’ve covered it yesterday, thanks for the question.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

In short, yes, we are very careful with our choice of partners to ensure their values are consistent with those of Australian Rugby.

However, in the case of Qantas, we are perfectly aligned. Qantas is an iconic Australian brand and terrific long-term supporter of Australian Rugby.

We are very lucky to have them involved as our major sponsor and long may it stay that way.

We are extremely fortunate to have a great portfolio of leading brands and companies as sponsors and partners.

Our most recent partner acquisitions of HSBC, Asteron Life, Dove for Men are great examples of that.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

Tom, good question, thank you.

There is a great Rugby community in our country areas that are currently feeling a little dis-engaged with the game.

The player development pathway we are putting in place is attempting to address this problem.

It starts with the Junior Gold Cup program for under 15s and under 17s, that caters for 48 teams from around the country to participate in this competition from February until April.

It then goes to the Schoolboys level and under 20s level, which provides for participation by country teams.

And now with the launch of the National Rugby Championship, I’m delighted to say that we’ll have a NSW Country team and a Queensland Country team as part of our efforts to re-engage with the country community.

We will also have some exciting news soon about the Wallabies engaging with country communities in the lead-up to the first Bledisloe Test.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

In my role, one of my responsibilities is as a representative for Australia on the IRB Regulations Committee, which is the body responsible for recommending law changes.

There is a formal process in place by the IRB where member unions submit ideas on law changes, and these are considered on their merits, prior being recommended for consideration by the IRB Council.

We’re always looking at ways to enhance our game as a spectacle for fans and many interpret that as reviewing opportunities to eliminate stoppages in the game.

In my view, we need to be very careful in regard to law changes. In 1969, the official IRB rule book was 23 pages long, today’s rule book is 209 pages long.

I have no doubt all of those changes over the past 30-odd years were well-intentioned, however, one of the outcomes has been a more technical and complex game.

So while we remain committed to continual enhancement of the game, we need to take great care to understand the ultimate impact of all proposed changes.

With the launch of the National Rugby Championship, we have a domestic Australian competition that will provide more flexibility for match day innovations. This is one area we’re looking forward to engaging with the Rugby community to think of some creative ideas.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

One of the objectives of our involvement in Super Rugby, is as a development platform for our future Qantas Wallabies. As a consequence, wherever possible, we are eager to have Australian players representing Australian teams in Super Rugby.

Our Australian teams already have the opportunity to contract foreign players as part of their squads. Examples include Alby Mathewson (a Kiwi playing for the Force) and Jacques Potgieter (a South African playing for the Waratahs).

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

We’re in the final stages of getting approval from each national Union of SANZAR (New Zealand, South Africa, Australia), on the competition structure for Super Rugby 2016-2020.

We are hopeful this will be completed within the next month, so we can communicate details publically.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

The current broadcast agreement with Fox Sports, gives them exclusive rights over all media platforms, including digital.

The next SANZAR broadcast agreement will be for the period 2016-2020 and while we do expect the digital component of this to be far more significant, in our negotiations, it’s premature to predict the final outcome.

Suffice to say, that from the perspective of the ARU, we’ll be looking for a far greater influence from digital media during this next contract period.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

Just to be clear, the Wallabies are the most profitable entity in Australian Rugby – and long may it stay that way! This questions goes to the heart of developing strategy for the game in Australia, and there are three key pillars to drive growth:

First involves participation and doing everything we can to bring young boys and girls into the game.

At the other end, you have the performance of your elite teams (ie. Wallabies and men’s and women’s Sevens).

And in the middle, you have the development of pathways to take these young boys and girls starting the game today and help them realise their dream to ultimately play for Australia.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT

The decision on ticket prices for NRC games will be the responsibility of the teams involved. However, the organiser’s are eager to promote attendance to these games and therefore we expect pricing to be very affordable.

Live Q&A with ARU CEO Bill Pulver - from 1pm AEDT