John Grant to stay ARL Commission chairman but millions of questions remain
Paul Kent, The Daily Telegraph
ONLY rugby league’s ability to not get the job done could have saved ARL Commission chairman John Grant from being sacked ... for not getting the job done.
Let’s go back four seasons when the Commission, still fresh and filled with good intent, announced its whole-of-game strategy.
Six pillars would drive the game and included in that was a centralisation of rugby league. By bringing the NSW and Queensland Rugby Leagues under the stewardship of the NRL it would save the game $8 million a year and everybody was glad.
It not only did not happen, both organisations have got bigger and are expanding.
The NSWRL announced in June it would build a $20m centre of excellence, even though clubs are considered responsible for elite development. The QRL has eight full-time social media staff in a terrific show of how to waste money.
They grow and spend, even though the game was broke three weeks ago.
Not anymore, apparently.
Immediately after the now infamous walkout meeting last month, all 16 clubs and the NSWRL and QRL met and agreed Grant’s position was untenable. Grant told them Todd Greenberg’s advice was the game could not afford to fund them the $13 million, a figure where the NRL chief executive “staked his career” on being right but which as since been overturned.
Within days, though, Newcastle and Gold Coast had voted to support Grant and so, too, had the QRL.
The Knights and Titans did so because they are owned and funded by the NRL. Nobody knows why Queensland did.
Yet they became crucial in saving Grant.
Watching Grant lose the public war, I called him last week for an interview. It would not be a “why won’t you step down” interview but “tell us why you are doing a good job”, given he was losing the PR war with the clubs.
Still, there were hard answers demanded.
Grant agreed but asked for it to be put off until Monday. Come Monday, he needed 48 hours.
He was lobbying the clubs, knowing he needed two to flip to save his job.
The clubs made three demands: they wanted the 130 per cent grant back on the table, they wanted two representatives on the Commission and they wanted Grant gone.
Their real target was Greenberg but constitutionally they could chase only the chairman.
So Grant worked the QRL and, through them, got Brisbane and North Queensland to flip.
It will be announced on Tuesday the clubs have voted “unanimously” — given the war is lost — that the vote to oust Grant is over, that the clubs will get their $13m a year funding and two seats will be made available on the Commission. Grant will leave in 12 months, down on the five years he initially preferred but better than being sacked on Tuesday.
As one club boss said: “If this was on the table three weeks ago it would have been a terrific deal, but why did we have to go through three weeks of this to get it?”
Figures leaked to The Telegraph show the NRL has an annual $470m in broadcast revenue from 2018-2022.
Of that, $70m will go in sales costs. Another $220m a year will go to the 16 clubs ($13m each a year) and NSWRL and QRL ($6m each). Running the NRL competition and paying the 200-plus staff will cost $73m a year. Another $100m will be spent on grassroots, a 330 per cent increase on the $30m spent this year.
It leaves the NRL $7m to bank for future funding.
The NRL is still far from doing a satisfactory job. The Commission is gutless and invisible. They posted Grant, leaving him alone to face the wrath of the clubs, with not one coming to support him. They don’t seem to have the capacity to make the administration function properly, efficiently or make it achieve their own stated lofty goals.
In 2012 the NRL promised average crowds of 20,000 by 2017: Fail.
It promised year on year television ratings rise: Fail.
It promised 400,000 memberships: Fail.
It promised $200m in the bank for “key projects”: Fail.
Grant no longer needs an interview to state his case because he has lobbied the clubs and saved his job and fair enough, but the questions remain:
How can the NRL claim to be strapped for cash three weeks ago but now have money to fund the clubs at the upper end of what the wanted?
Where did it come from?
How much money does the NRL have in the bank? (Answer: $50m)
The $200m surplus for a future fund by 2017. Where did the money go?
When the NRL announced its television deal in 2012, you said: “The cash is useful in providing funding to grow our game from the grassroots to the elite level.” Yet last month you explained the funding withdrawal to clubs because: “We also understand the grassroots needs to be fed because this game is going backwards, slowly but determinately, in terms of grassroots participation.”
How did you get it so wrong?
What responsibility does the Commission take for this?
An extra $70m is about to be spent in to grassroots annually. Yet in August the man in charge of grassroots, Andrew Hill, the general manager of league integration and game development, quit and has not been replaced. How can a department with no boss make a decision on how the money should be spent?
How does the NRL justify a 330 per cent increase? How will this money be spent effectively?
You have told the clubs it will cost the NRL $80m for digital, another reason the game could not afford to fund the clubs what was promised. How did the NRL come up with that figure?
The NRL has traditionally been a content provider, why does it feel the need to produce content at a significant cost?
The clubs are unhappy with Todd Greenberg’s performance, your third CEO in the five years of the Commission, how do you and your Commission you rate his performance?
They are legitimate questions, all requiring consideration from the NRL and an explanation.
Not for the clubs, but for the fans, who entrusted their game to these people and yet suffer through black headlines and discover that, five years into new management, so many of the promises made have not added up to a hill of beans.
According to the NRL’s figures, by the end of 2022 the Commission after having been in place 11 years, would have received almost $3,000,000,000 in broadcast funding.
And have just $85,000,000 in the bank.