Outgoing Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant has called on the new executive taking over in February to appoint more women commissioners, admitting it was a blemish on his five-year tenure this didn’t happen.
Grant will step down from the ARLC helm in February and fellow foundation commissioner Catherine Harris has announced she will not be seeking another term.
In July it was announced former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and University of NSW vice-chancellor Megan Davis had agreed to take seats on the eight-member commission following the resignations of senior businessmen Jeremy Sutcliffe and Graeme Samuel. That gave the ARLC two women on the board for the first time since it was established in the 2012 pre-season.
With the Commission expanding to 10 members next year, including two representatives for the 16 NRL clubs and one each from the QRL and NSWRL, it means it is likely there will be only one woman again as the ARLC enters a sixth year.
Australian Bankers Association CEO Anna Bligh, former Canterbury Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle and Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page have strong rugby league connections and have been mentioned as options. None of them have stated whether they want to join the ARLC.
Grant said he hoped that as the ARLC expanded, those making the selections would see the need for women commissioners.
“There will initially be one woman from the six independent commissioners, Megan Davis. We will have to see whether more will come from clubs and states,” Grant told NRL.com.
“Having said that, it is very clear to the current independent commission that membership requires greater diversity. I can't speak for the new commission but it should be clear to it also that more women must be appointed to the commission.”
Grant acknowledged his disappointment that he was not able to make that a reality.
“It is true to say that under my watch as chair the number of women on the commission has not increased from the one it started with,” he said.
“This has not been without trying. We have just been unsuccessful in the recruitment process, not enhanced I might add by the public challenges of recent times which have not been constructive to recruiting quality new candidates.”
Grant was almost rolled as chairman by the NRL clubs over disagreements in funding for the next broadcast agreement cycle. The subsequent publicity proved damaging to both parties.
The 67-year-old former Queensland and Australian winger will stand down from the ARLC in February but will stay connected with rugby league for as long as the new commission desires.
He and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg are the ARLC nominations on the Rugby League International Federation board.
“I have been elected by the board as deputy chair to Nigel Wood,” Grant said. “This remains in place until my current term ends unless the ARLC chooses to withdraw that nomination. I'm not expecting this to be the case.”