Dave Smith welcomes club ownership changes
After a day that's seen a raft of off-field shake-ups across the game, NRL CEO Dave Smith says he is happy with the direction clubs are headed under his stewardship.
Manly and South Sydney have each announced massive ownership re-structures, while the embattled Sharks have sacked CEO Steve Noyce after a tumultuous 15-month reign.
Thursday morning saw the announcement that the Sea Eagles part-owner Richard Penn had purchased 100 per cent of the Quantum faction's stake in the club, increasing the Penn Sport stake to 90 per cent. The move which is expected to finally bring to an end almost a decade of boardroom battles on the Northern Beaches.
A few hours later the Rabbitohs confirmed billionaire business mogul James Packer had purchased a 37.5 per cent stake in the foundation club as the premiers' market value is set to soar above the $20 million mark.
Smith hailed both appointments, as well as Cronulla's decision to part ways with Noyce in search of a group CEO to handle football operations, the Leagues Club and a looming $300 million property development joint venture as "all positive changes."
"It is about leadership, that's exactly the key word," Smith said.
"I think you're seeing across the game, driven by the clubs as much as there is by me, there is a strengthening in that leadership. Anything that makes the clubs stronger, and sets a long term tone and brings in talent, I'm supportive of.
"All the changes are positive changes and the clubs that we're talking about will get stronger and stronger, so I'm very supportive."
The moves come as the NRL brings into effect from November 1 a number of incentives aimed at increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of club governance, starting with a club participation payment of $7.5 million and the possibility of additional funding should targets in membership, attendances and sponsorship be achieved, as well as penalties for a failure to meet minimum standards.
Smith confirmed Cronulla and NSW Origin skipper Paul Gallen would come under investigation from the NRL after he abused the game's head office via Twitter in the wake of Noyce's sacking.
Smith said he had not seen Gallen's comments, which have since been deleted from social media, but as far as he is concerned "the chapter's closed" on the tumultuous supplements saga that has engulfed the Sharks for the past 18 months.
Suspended coach Shane Flanagan is expected to be re-instated in the next few weeks having served a 12 month ban for failing to fulfil his duty of care to Sharks players when the club's doping program was overseen by Steven Dank in 2011.
Smith stated that there was no timeline set on Flanagan's return, nor was he concerned at the fact he could be back in the Sharks' saddle without the club having a CEO in place as a replacement for Noyce is sought by chairman Damian Keogh.
The Sharks were well and untruly under-resourced in 2011 when the supplements program began at the club, with no replacement installed after then-chief executive Richard Fisk's departure in May 2010 and Flanagan was left covering a number of roles in the organisation.
"At the end of the day that's a matter for the board," Smith said.
"The board will determine what the administrative arrangements are. I know that Damian is very committed to taking the club forward and that he and his board want to do that strongly next and put all of this stuff behind them.
"I'm sure that Damian is as concerned as anybody in making sure right leadership in place, and he'll choose the leadership that he wants for the culture that he's trying to create.
"The Cronulla board under Damien are doing a good job, they've had a tough season, and I think it's part and parcel of his cultural change. I support any cultural change where they're trying to make the team strong."