Rugby League has entered a new era with the formation of the Australian Rugby League Commission which from today will be the single controlling body and administrator of the game.
The eight-person ARL Commission today officially assumed governance of the game as Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, and NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, the Hon Graham Annesley MP, officially opened Rugby League Central, an administration, history and learning centre that brings the NRL, NSWRL, ARL Development and Country Rugby Leagues into the one working environment.
Today’s official handover in the presence of all 16 NRL clubs, senior players, development personnel and representatives of the State Leagues, who will report to the Commission, is the biggest structural change to the running of the game since the formation of the NSWRL in 1907.
Chaired by former Kangaroo and IT industry leader John Grant, the ARL Commission replaces the NRL Partnership between the ARL and News Limited. In doing so, it replaces the existing Partnership Committee and the existing ARL and NRL Boards.
The inaugural Commissioners are: John Grant (Chairman), Catherine Harris AO PSM, Ian Elliot, Peter Gregg, Wayne Pearce OAM, Gary Pemberton AC, Jeremy Sutcliffe and Dr Chris Sarra.
“This is without doubt an historic day for the game,” Mr Grant said today.
“It may have taken a little while longer to get here than some expected but that in itself is testimony to the significance of what is taking place.
“To be ready to bring the Commission ‘on-line’ as Rugby League Central enjoys its official opening provides a nice synergy at a time when the whole of Rugby League is looking to what we can achieve in the future.
“The Commissioners will act as custodians for the game and are committed to acting in the best interests of Rugby League in an environment that considers all parties but which is not aligned to any one area of the sport.”
The Commission will be based at Rugby League Central, which has been built with Federal and State Government funding, at Sydney’s Moore Park.
Under its charter, the role of the Commission will be to foster, develop and grow the game; to provide adequate funding for Rugby League at all levels; to run, organise and conduct the NRL competition; to organise and conduct all State of Origin and Australian International games; and to liaise with and delegate appropriate functions to the governing bodies in the States and Territories of Australia, including the NSWRL and QRL (the full list of company ‘objects’ appears on a separate ARL Commission information release).
Today’s announcement ends 14 seasons of the NRL competition under the banner of a formal News Limited and ARL Partnership.
“It speaks volumes for the spirit of Rugby League that a number of parties and individuals have acted selflessly in stepping aside to allow the Commission to come into being,” Mr Grant said.
Former ARL Chairman and NSWRL Chairman, Mr John Chalk, oversaw the final meeting of the previous ARL Board and the dissolving of the former constitution at a meeting at Rugby League Central today.
He said that it was an important step for the future but also the end of an era for many who had supported the ARL over a number of years.
“The ARL logo has been a strong symbol for many in Rugby League but there are times when you have to let go of the past to move forward and this is an important step forward,” Mr Chalk said.
News Limited said: “We are proud to have been involved in successfully handing over the administration of the game to the new Australian Rugby League Commission.
“We wish the game and the Commission all the best for the future.
“We look forward to continuing our strong commitment to the game, bringing it to the millions of Australians who everyday rely on our publications and products for their sporting news and coverage of their favourite team.”
Under the NRL Partnership, the competition recovered from its lowest ebb to set records in average and total crowds, television ratings, sponsorship levels and broadcasting revenue.
The NRL has established the closest competitions in history (with 13 clubs reaching the Grand Final and nine winning Premierships in 14 seasons), a new team on the Gold Coast, a new competition in the Toyota Cup, new concepts such as the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars and ‘golden point’, game-wide player welfare and education strategies and One Community programs.
“More people are playing the game than ever before, more people are members of a club than ever before and more people are interacting on every level from attending games, to watching on television, the internet or being a part of social media,” the Commission’s inaugural Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.
“Rugby League is in an incredibly strong position from which to move forward and the Commission will provide an important framework in making the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.”
The move to a Commission has the support of every stakeholder in the game and has involved lengthy consultation in terms of its structure and the appointment of its inaugural Commissioners.
Over recent months the Commissioners have met on a number of occasions to ensure they are informed on as many game issues as possible.
Already this has resulted in a strong voice of support from Club Chief Executives and Chairmen who have dealt with the Commissioners.
“This is a real opportunity for everyone in Rugby League to look for new ways to create opportunity by working together,” Mr Grant said today.
“There are an amazing number of positives on which Rugby League can capitalise at the moment.
“If you had to look at the most immediate priorities for the Commission to consider you would have to say: Broadcaster and sponsorship negotiations; the re-alignment of strategic plans and objectives with the game’s new structure; the establishment of a whole-of-game culture from the grass-roots to the Kangaroos and working with the game’s management team to develop new opportunities for clubs, players and fans.
“We are certainly fortunate to have an experienced Chief Executive in David Gallop and skilled management personnel and their areas of responsibility will certainly grow under the Commission.
“The Commission is made up of a team of incredibly talented people who bring a diverse range of skills to the game.
“Any corporation would be proud to assemble a Board of this quality.”