Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys’ ascent would test ARLC independence

Which choice does he make? Does he screw the corporate bookmakers for the benefit of racing or league?


V’landys, who is holidaying in Greece, is not authorised to speak without the permission of incumbent chair, Peter Beattie. However, he would no doubt argue he has already benefitted rugby league with tens of millions of dollars via a legal action which went all the way to the High Court.

Racing NSW won the right to extract a charge from the corporate bookmakers for use of their product, a monetary benefit which was replicated in other sports, including the NRL and AFL. With the fight over, V’landys would argue the scenario of an increase in the price charged corporate bookmakers can’t arise, owing to governments taking a slice of the dividend.

Still, even the perception that the chair of the ARLC is not acting in the best interests of his sport, while wearing the hat of another, is poor governance and will undermine its credibility.

Another potential conflict arises from the “war” currently waged with Racing Victoria over the pre-eminence of the state’s respective racing carnivals. It’s an arms race for prizemoney and profile and it has been personal, poisonous and public.

Martin Pakula is the Victorian racing minister but oversees the major events portfolio and therefore decides how much his government will pay for big rugby league matches in Victoria and support for the Storm NRL team. Should the Sydney stadia rebuild be delayed and one or more grand finals played interstate, V’landys will be negotiating with Pakula whose state racing interests he seeks to undermine.

V’landys could be forced into a situation where he has to walk away from negotiations in one of the sports

In an AFL-obsessed city, it is likely someone will remind Pakula of what V’landys said of the Victorian capital last year: “Melbourne has the smelly Yarra River, it’s got the most dreary city on Earth with the worst weather, yet NSW bows and scrapes to it all the time.”

V’landys would no doubt argue Pakula is smart enough to accept the economic benefit of bringing the big games to his state, without being vindictive.

A third point of conflict could arise if V’landys is negotiating a TV rights deal for Racing NSW at the same time the ARLC has gone to market for its broadcasting rights. Given that the fees paid by free-to-air and subscription TV are the single biggest source of income to the code, V’landys could be forced into a situation where he has to walk away from negotiations in one of the sports.

V’landys’ negotiating style, which he has admitted to being “kamikaze-like”, could result in significant financial windfalls for rugby league. This money could be employed to finally confront the AFL, which has been far more aggressive in traditional rugby league territory than the reverse.

However, if development dollars are spent at the expense of NRL club grants, V’landys will upset the club bosses who engineered his appointment to the ARLC.

Current ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie. Credit:Steven Siewert

Alternatively, other NRL clubs may perceive that V’landys is very close to News Corp Australia which owns Foxtel – a major source of broadcasting fees – and not support his elevation to chair of the ARLC.

After all, it is only the clubs who can stop V’landys’ ascension following the unusual step taken by Beattie of holding a press conference to announce that he is leaving and to publicly anoint his successor. This is the act of a politician, a course Beattie took in 2007 when he resigned and anointed Anna Bligh as his successor as Queensland Premier.

But as chairman of an independent commission, formed seven years ago to eliminate vested interests, Beattie has now promoted a successor who has the potential to create conflict, rather than quell it.

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