Historic review into Australian Rugby's corporate governance announced

by Staff Writer

· Retired Gen. Peter Cosgrove and the Honourable, Mark Arbib to lead review into ARU’s corporate governance structure.

· Former Wallabies Captain George Gregan appointed to ARU Board.

· Long serving ARU Chairman, Peter McGrath, stands down.

· Former Wallaby, Michael Hawker, elected as new ARU Chairman.

Australian Rugby Union today announced ARU Board Member, General Peter Cosgrove AC MC and former Senator, Assistant Treasurer and Sports Minister, Mark Arbib, will conduct a review into ARU’s corporate governance.

The announcement came following ARU’s Annual General Meeting in Sydney today and a week after the Commonwealth Government called on sports to modernise their corporate governance arrangements.

Outgoing Chairman, Peter McGrath, welcomed the decision to undertake the review and said Rugby as a sport could not continue to ignore the importance of creating an independent governance structure.

“One of the key issues that we need to focus on in the immediate future is the structure of ARU’s corporate governance,” Mr McGrath said.

“Our main rivals in AFL, NRL and Football (Soccer) have each embraced modern governance arrangements and Cricket has recently taken steps to revise its governance structures.

“For Rugby to be able to meet all its challenges and prosper into the future we must adopt best practice.

“It is a task that will have its challenges, but I believe Rugby has the leaders and the personnel to deliver reform.

“Our governance structure has outlived its purpose, just as the game has evolved and turned professional so to must the governance of Australian Rugby, there is no ignoring that fact that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with sooner, rather than later.”

Following close consultation with the Commonwealth Minister for Sport it has been decided ARU’s review will be led by ARU’s Governance and Policy Committee chair the Retired Gen. Peter Cosgrove AC MC.

General Cosgrove will be assisted by the former Assistant Treasurer and Sports Minister, Mark Arbib, who has agreed to conduct the review with input from external experts and Australian Rugby’s key stakeholders.

Mr McGrath said the decision to select General Cosgrove and Mr Arbib to lead the review was the right one.

“During his time in parliament as Minister for Sport Mr Arbib was a strong advocate for sporting organisations to move to an independent governance structure,” Mr McGrath said.

“His knowledge in this particular area, accompanied by his passion for sport makes him the perfect candidate to assist General Cosgrove in leading the review.

“General Cosgrove has been involved with Rugby on a number of different levels over a long period of time and will bring a lot experience and knowledge to the table.

“Both men are extremely professional and understand that for our game to thrive into the future we need to have a governance structure that is best practice, which will benefit our sport nationally.”

Delegates at today’s Annual General Meeting were also briefed on ARU’s financial results for 2011.

Due to the scheduling of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, ARU did not host any inbound tours from the Northern Hemisphere in June and participated in a truncated Tri Nations championship, the net impact being four less Test matches.

The reduced domestic Test schedule resulted in ARU’s revenue for 2011 being $16 million less than could have been expected in a regular year.

Despite the $16 million revenue shortfall and after allocations to its Member and Affiliate Unions ARU announced a deficit of $7.5 million.

Mr McGrath said the impact could have been disastrous for the game at all levels had it not been for good management and planning throughout the season.

“Credit must go to ARU Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill and his management team for reducing the impact on the bottom line and achieving a deficit of just $7.5 million,” Mr McGrath said.

“The good work undertaken by John and his team has certainly seen ARU emerge from 2011 having cushioned the financial impacts of Rugby World Cup.

“The problems caused by the scheduling of Rugby World Cup in 2011 cannot be repeated in 2015.

“It’s simply a matter that the IRB must fix and remains one of the most pressing issues for the major National Unions.

“Reducing a Union’s income by such a dramatic amount impacts the game at all levels, from the elite, to the State Unions and grassroots.

Delegates were also informed of the 2011 participation numbers, which reached historic highs in 2011 with more than 260,000 people playing Rugby across the country.

Following on from 2010’s record breaking participation figures, which saw numbers surpass the 200,000 mark for the first time in the game’s history, ARU announced another milestone had been reached with an overall record of 261,437 people playing Rugby in 2011.

The figures represented an increase of 52,404 (25.1%) on 2010 and reflect the exceptional work of countless volunteers that are the lifeblood of the community game.

A total of 47,430 juniors played in 2011 increasing Rugby’s junior playing numbers by 1.1% nationally.

The 2011 Qantas Walla Rugby Week, which enjoyed record numbers last year, helped deliver more than 111,063 players to school carnivals, gala days and competitions across Australia boosting school participation by a huge 86.3%.

Other key areas of participation in 2011 included:

· NSW Juniors up 1.4% to 20,458 (Record),

· Overall playing numbers in NSW up 21.2% to 101,690 (Record),

· QLD Juniors up 1.8% to 15,202 (Record),

· Overall playing numbers in QLD up 31.4% to 76,033 (Record),

· VRU Seniors up 1.4% to 2,537 (Record),

· Rugby WA Seniors up 3.9% to 3,273 (Record); and

· SARU Seniors up 5.4% to 1,013 (Record and the first time senior playing numbers have broken 1,000 in South Australia).

At an ARU Board meeting that followed the AGM Michael Hawker was elected as the Board’s new Chairman replacing outgoing Chairman Peter McGrath.

After being elected to the Board as a Director in 2005 and serving as Chairman since 2007 Mr McGrath stood down from both roles deciding not to stand for re-election.

Mr McGrath thanked John O’Neill, his management team and the Board for their support throughout the past seven years, particularly the last five as Chairman.

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with such committed and dedicated people,” Mr McGrath said.

“I step down as a Director and as Chairman of the ARU Board with the belief that the game is in good hands, that the Board will continue rise to the challenges of the future and that it will remain committed to working tirelessly for the good of the game in Australia.”

Former Wallabies captain George Gregan also joined the Board today as a nominee of the Rugby Union Players Association.

Mr Gregan replaces Mark Connors who was elected to the Board as the Rugby Union Players Association nominee in 2007.

The most capped player to have ever played the game Mr Gregan represented Australia on a record 139 occasions, 59 as captain – the most capped Wallabies skipper in the history of the game.

One of just a handful of players in the game’s history to undertake four Rugby World Cup campaigns (1995 – 2007), Mr Gregan was vice-captain during the Wallabies 1999 Rugby World Cup victory and was at the helm during the Wallabies 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign where he led the side to the final.

During a career that spanned 13 years, from 1994 to 2007, Mr Gregan played a hand in securing Australia’s second Rugby World Cup in 1999, was a mainstay in capturing the Bledisloe Cup between 1998 and 2002 and helped deliver two Tri Nations titles in 2000 and 2001.

Geoffrey Stooke OAM, a director nominated by RugbyWA, stood unopposed for election and also joins the Board in place of the outgoing Mr McGrath.

A former Officer in the Australian Regular Army, Mr Stooke OAM joins ARU’s Board after 23 years of service as RugbyWA’s Chairman (1988 – 2011).

As well as serving as a Director at the Australian Sports Commission and The Australian Wool Exchange Mr Stooke has also held the position of Chairman and Managing Director of Standard Wool Australia.

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