Off the Wall

As the game continues to be beset with issues that really undermine confidence - such as appalling mistakes by referees, and an inconsistent judiciary process - there may be a light on the hill.

It would seem that progress towards the establishment of an Independent Commission to run the game has gathered pace - though we have heard that before.

The compromise that seems to be emerging between the ARL/NSWRL/QRL and News Limited on the makeup of the Independent Commission may well be endorsed by the ARL tomorrow.

While News has given some ground, the compromise would seem to be relatively minor - the 16 clubs will have one vote each, as will the NSWRL and QRL.

But the real power will be vested in the eight member Independent Commission.

That is where the real test for the whole process lies - an "independent" body is an absolute must if we are to have any confidence that the way the game is run is going to genuinely change, and change for the better.

The Independent Commission should take control on November 1 - and not before time.

The issues it needs to address grow almost daily. Here are just some of them:

- the standard of referees, and video referees, which continues to deteriorate
- a judiciary process that remains inconsistent
- the growing challenge to the very viability of a significant number of clubs now that poker machines are play a role in the negotiations to form the next federal government.
- the issue of the links between the game and sports betting, both sponsorship links and so far unproven claims of an attempted "sting" in a recent game, and
- the negotiation of the next television rights agreement.

The list is not conclusive - but an indication of the enormity of the challenge the commission faces.

In my view, it also needs to have serious look at how the investigation, and determination of penalties, when the salary cap abuse at the Melbourne Storm was uncovered.

There are so many questions that remain unanswered; questions only a commission wholly independent of News and the NRL can satisfactorily address.

Tomorrow's meeting of the ARL Board will be one of the most important in its history.

Let's hope that this time, at long last, the board and the state representatives, get it right!

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