Off the Wall

The "establishment of the independent commission" saga has taken yet another delaying twist.

The commission members are not going to be appointed in the near future - an international recruitment company has been chosen to determine the skills required for the commission members AND identify potential candidates for a committee comprising representatives of News Limited, the ARL and the NRL.

A couple of issues surely arise from this latest delay in a process which we were assured would be "up and running" by now. Well it is neither "up" nor "running".

You would have thought that, by now, the three bodies would have worked out what skills would be required for the commission membership...but it seems this process is only now getting under way.

But why a recruitment firm - which I assume does not come cheap - is needed to identify potential commission members is beyond me!

There has been a long and wide ranging debate about the kind of men and women who are suited for the commission - and a debate which has been, in my view, compromised when it comes to getting the best, by the QRL driven move to block just about anyone who has a current role in the game from being on the commission.

If that was done for reasons which have been outlined and justified, it might, just might, make some sense.

But there is little doubt the restrictions on membership were at least in part included so the now former ARL Chairman, Colin Love, would not be on the commission, let alone be its first chair!

The QRL clearly has a few scores to settle. But you have to ask whether that justifies excluding just about every current official - no matter how competent he or she might be - from being considered?

Take the case of Katie Page, CEO of Harvey Norman, wife of Gerry, and a current NRL Board Member.  Katie cannot be considered because she is a current office holder in the game - not matter how vastly experienced, competent, and I would have thought "independent" she is.

We run the serious risk of getting a so called independent commission - but one with limited experience in rugby league administration, especially at the grass roots level.

And I fear we run the risk of getting a commission comprising businessmen and women, who will be called on to run a game, and not just a business.

The "business" focus on the running of rugby league is important, but rugby league is also a sport, a game, with hundreds of thousands of stakeholders (players, coaches, club members etc) and even more fans.

Getting the balance right when it comes to the makeup of the commission, and its role, is vital.

And it must not just be about revenue, vital though that is.  It has also to be about addressing the day to day challenges of rugby league from the NRL club level right down to the needs and challenges of the junior teams in Cloncurry or Bourke.

Surely News, the NRL, and the ARL can come up with eight initial board members who blend business competence and experience, and some administrative experience in the greatest game of all?

And given the checks and balances having three quite separate "interests" choosing the  commission membership surely we can rely on them to put together a body that meets the reasonable tests that apply to transparency and independence?

And now that Colin Love is not on the list - thanks to the QRL - surely the prohibition on current NRL board members, and other current officials, such as Katie Page can be lifted?

And while the three groups are doing that, they should drop the recruitment agency nonsense as well.

We are now being told the commission will be "up and running" before the 2011 season.

I seem to recall a year or so ago there were even hopes it could be agreed on, if not up and running, before the start of the 2010 season?

Then we were told it would be in place within weeks of the end of the 2010 season!

The game is in good shape, but it is not without a range of real challenges that need to be addressed.

While the games powerbrokers squabble over the details, the real issues remain to be addressed. That is just not good enough.