NRL can’t afford to ignore value of good leadership as it cuts costs


The turnover of club chief executives reflects their short-term commitment, with Cronulla churning through an average of one CEO every year.

The clubs can’t be trusted to run the important programs operated by RL Central, particularly those focused on elevating the behaviour and image of players.

It’s hypocritical to whine about how the code’s 2018-19 summer of shame cost millions in sponsorship deals, yet protest about the funds spent by the central administration to address this.

And it’s not as if the NRL’s leadership is overpaid compared to the AFL’s. The top 12 executives at the AFL pull in total salaries of about $11 million. It is half the NRL’s head-office corporate costs of $22 million, which is spent on Greenberg and his executive team, the ARL Commission, media, finance, IT, HR, facilities, buildings, government and legal.

Yet Roosters chair Nick Politis, who has led the campaign to savage headquarters expenses, has a point.

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Politis, a billionaire businessman, compares TV income, staff levels, number of teams and cash reserves over a 25-year period separating the two major crises to confront the game.

In 1995, the first year of the Super League war, CEO John Quayle had a dozen staff running a 20-team competition from a TV budget of $8m and the code had $25m in the bank.

In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 virus, Greenberg had a staff of about 420 running a 16-team competition from TV income of $370m and has $22m in the bank.

So, same cash reserves with 35 times more staff administering a smaller league.

Greenberg continued many of the high-cost consultancies of his predecessor, Dave Smith, which raises the question: what was the commission doing by ticking off on these programs?

Greenberg’s legacy will be the bunker and his commitment to player welfare, particularly regarding protocols on concussion.

The bunker, the refereeing aid introduced in 2016 which coincided with Greenberg’s appointment as CEO, has provided transparency, accuracy and consistency.

He was also at the forefront of the social equity revolution, promoting same-sex marriage, Indigenous recognition and a women’s competition, while endorsing a contentious automatic stand-down policy.

Greenberg also presided over a changed accreditation and sanctioning system for player managers, granting the NRL more control.

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He has never been able to shake off the speculation surrounding his friendship with leading player-manager Isaac Moses, with whom he once worked in stadium management.

Moses has been issued an infraction notice for breaches of the player-manager code.

Yet what is not known is why Greenberg recused himself from the case, delegating any disciplinary responsibility to Weeks.

If ARLC chair Peter V’landys wants to use Greenberg’s exit to send a message to stakeholders, a good example comes from the English Premier League.

The 20-team competition is run by a staff of 160, presiding over global media rights income of $6 billion.

The executive chairman, Richard Scudamore, in 2018 received a salary, including bonuses, of approximately $5m, about four times more than Greenberg but operating a budget in another stratosphere.

Yet, when Liverpool and Manchester City fail to meet their bottom lines, they find other sources of revenue, rather than demand additional handouts and lobby for the boss’s sacking.

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