No change at the top or in Super Rugby process after EGM

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There will be no immediate change at the top of the ARU, and still no more clarity on when a final decision will be made on cutting a Super Rugby team, after an ARU extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday.

The majority of ARU members, in a meeting that included both Rebels centre Tom English and Force veteran Matt Hodgson as RUPA representatives, voted in favour of condensing from five Super Rugby teams to four, a debate that surrounded two resolutions.

Its members supported a third resolution on setting up a meeting to potentially establish a Super Rugby commission.

ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne said the issue of a change at the top didn't even arise in the 'civil' meeting, that went for close to three hours on Tuesday, after comments by CEO Bill Pulver on Sunday that if he felt the room was against him, he would resign immediately.

"The meeting was actually conducted in a very respectful and civil way," he said.

Bill Pulver admitted expansion was a mistake. Photo: Getty Images"We recognised that these are long term trends and everybody in the room - the ARU board right through to all the others - we’ve all got accountability for what are long-term trends, not just in rugby, but in sport.

"It was actually a very constructive and civil discussion, there were no discussions of leadership changes or anything like that.

"He (Pulver) was just making the obvious point that these are difficult changes to drive through and that to drive them through you need support ideally of all the stakeholders."

Those first two votes are significant in the sense that it aligns with the ARU's public stance last month that teams were supportive of a quick decision to cut a team, but that changed when the Force and the Rebels were named as those in the firing line on April 10.

Despite the majority voting in favour of staying on the four-team path, Clyne couldn't provide any clarity on a timeline for the process to be over, 71 days after the now infamous '48-72 hour' deadline, with mediation to begin with the Rebels next week and arbitration with WA Rugby starting on July 31.

"We’ve got teams that are looking to stay in the competition so we can’t control that time frame," he said.

"We’ve always said we’d like to bring it to resolution as quickly as possible but we don’t control that timing." - Cameron Clyne

"People were saying (before that April meeting) if you make a decision, make it quickly and move on. We were very happy to do that and that's why we put out a time frame of 48-72 hours.

'When you're making a difficult change, I accept there is criticism that it's taken time.

"Had I come out on April 10 and said we're  going to exit a team and it's going to take four months, there's be equal criticism coming back."

Though little tangible outcomes resulted from the meeting, originally called by the VRU and RUPA, Clyne maintained it was a worthwhile discussion, focused as much on improving win-loss records as anything else.

"We were able to talk through some of the (longer-term) declines, the way that fans are engaging differently with sports," he said.

"We were also able to highlight the fact our on-field performance has actually stepped down from the introduction of fourth team and then a fifth team."

"One thing we know is that if teams are performing, you do engage more fans (and) if you engage more fans, you get more people watching the game, you get more people going to the games.

"It's a straight correlation between that and I think we talked through some of the issues around that and were able to get some ideas going about how we can improve that going forward."

The establishment of a Super Rugby commission could be seen as simply another level of governance in an already bureaucracy heavy football code.

Clyne said the support for that motion would not necessarily mean the commission would come to fruition.

"In many respects we have an advisory group already, we have the strategy advisory group, which is all the franchise CEOs with Bill and representatives from smaller states," he said.

"We had it (a Super Rugby commission)  in the past and it was actually disbanded because we felt to be a duplication but we’re very happy to discuss it but I think that's something to happen in the future."