Both Australian Rugby codes canned their CEOs this week. NRL CEO Todd Greenberg resigned on Monday after broadcast partner Nine CEO Hugh Marks refused to no longer deal with him. On Thursday evening Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle resigned after no longer receiving the full confidence of the body’s Board of Directors.
The coronavirus pandemic with all sporting games suspended exposed fully both Rugby codes perilous financial positions and poor top down management.
The NRL had to secure a $100 million emergency fund from a British equity group after previously asking the Australian taxpayer to bail them out. The NRL still plans to resume its season on May 28.
When the season resume date was announced Nine CEO Hugh Marks lambasted the NRL for not consulting their free to air broadcast partner. He also lashed out at Greenberg for wasting the broadcast rights money on a bloated NRL head office full of administrations.
NRL stakeholders appear to have much more faith in new Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys. This proved to be the final blow against Greenberg who had been NRL CEO since 2016.
V’landys is also the CEO of Racing NSW and is the mastermind of Sydney’s new Everest horse race which is already aiming to challenge the Melbourne Cup as the biggest sports racing event.
Despite his downfall with his failures fully exposed Greenberg told Channel 7 in his fist post-CEO interview he had “(No regrets) whatsoever, I’ve loved every single minute of it.” and “I’m not (upset) at all. It’s been a great journey, I’ve had a lovely time working with the NRL”.
He was also proud of the diversity he introduced to the game “When I reflect on it things like the advent of the women’s’ game and the growth we’ve had in NRLW I hope we see that prosper in years to come” and “Sitting at the 2017 grand final watching Macklemore perform (Same Love) and I suppose seeing the inclusiveness of the sport portrayed was fantastic”.
Raelene Castle’s Slow Demise
New Zealand born Raelene Castle was the first women appointed CEO of Rugby Australia in 2017. Her tenure will most be remembered for her ultimate decision to terminate the contract of star Wallabies player Israel Folau over his sinners Instagram post in April 2019.
After a being found guilty of a high level breach of the players’ code of conduct by a Rugby Australia tribunal Folau’s $4 million playing contract was terminated on 17 May 2019 one day before Australia’s federal election.
What followed was one of Australia’s most high profile unfair dismissal cases with Australian Christians funding his legal battle. It could have dragged on for years but in December last year Rugby Australia and Israel Folau reached a confidential financial settlement and apologized to each other.
Although the Folau saga servery damaged her public image it was the $120 Rugby Australia revenue black hole that was exposed under her watch due to all Rugby competitions being suspended due to the coronavirus. Right before the game shutdown negotiations had broken down between Foxtel and Rugby Australia over a new broadcast rights deal.
As with Greenberg it was other changes in personal at board level that sealed Raelene Castle’s fate. Brett Godfrey, Supercars chairman Peter Wiggs, and former Wallaby Daniel Herbert all joined the Rugby Australia board at the beginning of April and were reportedly not big fans of the current management style.
Upon her resignation Castle said she was told RA needed “clear air”. Echoing Greenberg’s “no regrets” line she said in a statement “I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flak and do everything possible to serve everyone’s best interests”.
Both Greenberg and Castle were seen as enablers of politically correct “woke” culture infecting sporting codes. But both rugby codes saw low game attendance numbers, state governments built their new stadiums in Western Sydney and North Queensland. Sydney’s two main rugby stadiums are in the process of being knocked down and rebuilt courtesy of the NSW taxpayer.
The AFL appears to be the only winter sporting code that will escape the coronavirus shutdown with only a minor financial hit. This is despite the AFL also incorporating politically correct “woke” into its game. It still has a massive gold chest and AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is extremely safe in the role.
Fans are expecting once with codes resume their seasons (the AFL season is rumoured to resume in July) that senior management will go back to basics, putting the game, its players, fans and grassroots clubs and competitions first. No more money should be wasted on diversity officers or diversity campaigns and investments.