Australia initially lobbied George Peponis, a former Australian captain, to put himself forward as an independent director and chair the re-constituted RLIF board. However, Peponis declined because it would have meant resigning as chair of the NSWRL.
Greenberg will now encourage St George Illawarra’s former chief executive, Peter Doust, to make himself available. Doust, a long-term NRL club boss, would bring to the RLIF table the experience of the clubs who generate most of the game’s revenue and provide the talent for representative fixtures. His role would become even more important if big-brand NRL or Super League clubs play in the US.
Furthermore, the Doust family has history in the game’s governance, with Peter’s father, Laurie, once a key member of the board of the NSWRL when it was corporatised under John Quayle.
The ARLC’s former chair, John Grant, was a driver of the constitutional reform, along with
RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood, a former financial controller of the code in England.
Wood did not respond to request for comment by the Herald but New Zealand’s Greg Peters said: “The NZRL is very happy that the work undertaken over the past two years to modernise the governance of the game has come to fruition. The addition of independent directors to bring the board structure in line with common practice across sport and business and the structure of representation via regional confederations is a positive move for the growth on rugby league. In the case of the southern hemisphere, the structure of the Asia Pacific RL Confederation recognises the significant contribution that the Pacific Islands make to the game.”
Australia’s failure to lodge a vote is perplexing. The RLIF member nations resolved at the November annual general meeting to advance governance reform with urgency, with the target of taking final recommendations to an April extraordinary general meeting. The full board, including the ARLC’s two directors, chair Peter Beattie and Greenberg, finally and unanimously endorsed the new constitution and with 21 days notice sent material to members and scheduled the EGM. It raises the question why the biggest and most influential member country could not organise itself to vote when it had since November to consider it.
Furthermore, Australia delayed development of an international calendar, forcing New Zealand, England and the RLIF to finally take it upon themselves to underwrite an inaugural Oceania Cup and a Lions tour in 2019, the first to the southern hemisphere in 13 years. Australia will not play Great Britain in the November tournament.
Perhaps Australia’s lack of commitment is linked to its own power structure, where the support of each ARLC commissioner is required to endorse constitutional changes.
This comes at a time News Corp’s influence on the game is possibly greater than at any point since the media company half-owned it.
One commissioner, Amanda Laing, is an executive at Foxtel, the code’s pay-for-view broadcaster, while another, Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys, has lucrative commercial links with News and Nine publications via racing lift-outs.
The Directors’ Room at Randwick racecourse was the preferred destination of VIPs on Saturday for Winx’s farewell race. With media executives attracted by the fine dining, the free wine and the view of the finishing post, the “V’landys room” is increasingly becoming the de facto headquarters of the game.
Still, that’s an upgrade on the Clovelly Hotel, the nerve centre post-Super League but a
retreat to the days NSWRL boss Kevin Humphreys and Souths’ Charlie Gibson frequented
Back then, important rugby league matches were moved from Saturday to Sunday “so the
racing people can go to the football”.
Power wise, the game has gone full circle.
Roy Masters is a Sports Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.