Off the Wall

The more drawn out the process of selecting the independent commission to run the game is, the more concerned we should be about the likely outcome.

We are hearing too much about the need for "business experience", and not enough, if anything at all, about the need to represent the games number one stakeholder group - its fans.

When we heard last year that a major (and one assumes costly) recruitment firm was overseeing the process we should have expected what would follow.

It has come up with something like 140 names!

That simply ensures its costly services will be further required - to cull the list back to something the clubs, the ARL, and News can agree on.

Behind the scenes, however, there is obviously something more worrying going on.

It is apparent that News, and the ARL, can, and will, exercise the right to effectively block an individual no matter how overwhelming his or her suitability might be.

Take the case of John Quayle, one of the best administrators the game has ever had - and not a bad player in his time as well.

He would be well qualified, having built a very success career in venue development and sporting event management since he left the ARL/NSWRL, and he has a wealth of knowledge in rugby league management as well. I did not always agree with his administrative style, but he was rugby league through and through.

He must be at long odds to make it given repeated media reports that his defence of the game when the breakaway movement in the mid-1990's tried to take it over completely.

That is to be regretted.

The various parties ultimately responsible for approving the commission should put the game's best interest before their own. Are we certain that is going to happen?

But back to my original concern...the new commission is going to have an enormous influence over the direction of the game.

Its capacity to be represent every aspect of the game - all its stakeholders - has been somewhat compromised by the requirement that no current official can serve on it.

That provision was put in to ensure News Limited and the ARL executives and officials cannot be on the commission.

It should not be used to stack the commission with businessmen and women. Rugby league is a large business - but it is also a sport, with participation from school age children right through to women players and professional footballers.

The administration of the game must take full account of the importance of juniors, country and regional league teams and clubs, volunteers and the vast fan base who have remained so loyal in the worst of times as well as the best of times.

One wonders if a professional recruitment firm can appreciate the need for that?

We have to hope that the ARL officials who are on the committee that will finally select the eight commission members will look beyond business experience and corporate success and profile, and select one or two commissioners "out of left field" and women whose main qualification is dedication to the game, especially at its grass roots.

In all that has been written about the commission makeup that one quality has been conspicuous by its absence!

Rugby league has many stakeholders - clubs, players, sponsors, officials, television and other rights holders among them. But its fans are its most vital stakeholders of them all.

In the process now under way they must not be ignored.