Pulver to step down after Super Rugby saga

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

ARU CEO Bill Pulver says he will step aside as soon as the governing body has a replacement, after announcing the ARU's decision to cut the Western Force.

It had been long believed Pulver's tenure would end once the messy Super Rugby decision finally come to some kind of conclusion and the CEO confirmed that on Friday, addressing media after the announcement.

Pulver's five-year term was set to end in February, but he admitted as early as April he would not be seeking a long-term re-appointment and as the uncertainty dragged on in the Super Rugby saga, that February deadline began to look optimistic.

"My sense is we now need a period of renewal in Australian rugby, which is why I’ve told the board that I will step aside as CEO once they have found a replacement," he said on Friday.

"I would describe this year as a pretty tough year for rugby.

"We’re dealing with the issue of dropping a Super Rugby team and that has been a harrowing process.

"My sense is that it’s a good time for renewal, I’m coming up towards the end of my five-year term and I think we want a clean slate.

"The next generation of rugby in this country, I think will be served with a new head  so I think it’s the right time."

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne defended Pulver's legacy to media on Friday.

"Bill has been fashionably blamed for everything that goes wrong in Australian rugby," he said.

"One of the problems with Australian rugby is that we have an extraordinarily complex government system with multiple layers of governance.

"The advances in the game under Bill's watch have been extraordinary - junior participation is up for the first time in 15 years, we have a very successful Sevens program, we are developing, there have been a lot of adjustments.

Clyne said Pulver was partly a victim of rugby's cannibalistic nature.

"One of the sad things about rugby is that, more than any other sport, it turns on its own," he said.

"Ultimately, a different set of stakeholders don't like various outcomes and tend to turn on each other.

"It's a difficult job and the strategic challenges are there but a different CEO would not have arrived at a different set of conclusions.

"The thing about Bill is that he has copped an incredible amount of unfair criticism, quite nasty as well."

Clyne will not be following Pulver's decision to resign, confident he still has the support of the directors.

"We made the decision to go to four teams, that was made ahead of the AGM this year, I was up for election at the AGM and was reelected," he said.

"We then had an EGM where the board voted in support of four teams - we are implementing policies, as painful as it is, that the members are in support of.

"Having been through two reviews with the members in the space of four months and having been supported at both of those in the direction that we are taking, I'm comfortable but of course the members are free to change their view at any point in time."

This article reflects the views of the author, not the ARU or any of its associated clubs.