RA chief reveals plan to centralize control of Super Rugby clubs



With the introduction of a genuinely centralized structure, the Australian Rugby Union is about to undergo its biggest structural change since professionalism was introduced a quarter of a century ago. But how could it make things better for players and fans of the sport?

Rugby Australia President Hamish McLennan, supported by RA CEO Andy Marinos and the board that includes former Wallabies Daniel Herbert and Phil Waugh, told foxsports.com.au on Monday that the sport is in the stages. final to agree on a new centralized operating model for rugby in Australia.

The new approach will see RA play a key role in appointments to all five Super Rugby teams, including head coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and player signings. RA will also have much more involvement in the business operation and growth of the clubs.

RA believes this will allow them to halt the loss of talent in foreign leagues, as well as ensure that key talents receive as much playing time as possible by moving them around clubs and not allowing them to get stuck on the bench due to the preference of head coaches. Other options.

Fans will immediately think of players who have lost to foreign teams or who have fought with their clubs and missed playing time. Quade Cooper, Izack Rodda, Will Skelton, and Samu Kerevi, to name just four, have headed abroad for different periods and for different reasons – reasons that the RA hopes a centralized approach will help avoid in the future.

(Photo by Chris Hyde / Getty Images)

With the new business participation, RA will also have more control over things like advertising and the club’s overall finances. This oversight, combined with a reduction in duplication of effort and costs, is expected to allow the sport to rectify its precarious financial situation.

In 2020, RA declared a loss of $ 9.4 million for the previous year, which then fell small in 2021 when they shared that the organization had had a loss of more than $ 27 million in the previous 12 months. McLennan shared that the losses had hit the sport so hard that there were even conversations about whether it needed to go back to being an amateur code.

The concept of centralization has long been discussed with the examples of the Irish RFU and the New Zealand Rugby Union as clear evidence that it can be a very effective model.

However, when Scott Johnson joined Rugby Australia as Director of Rugby in 2018, he moved the issue to the back of the filing cabinet.

“I don’t think we can centralize as a country,” Johnson said early in his tenure, but made it clear that bringing Super Rugby teams closer together had many potential benefits. “I think we should have an aligned system. I think we have four really good provincial teams, and if we start working and working together, we can be quite strong and formidable. “

This time, however, it seems that McLennan and RA have found a way to get everyone who needs to join in. Crucially, this includes the Super Rugby clubs themselves that have historically always resisted such change.

“For the sake of the game, we are absolutely committed to doing it,” McLennan told Fox Sports on Monday.

Rugby Australia President Hamish McLennan

Hamish McLennan. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images)

It appears that the tough past 12 months have been a major catalyst for this change with an RA official quoted anonymously by Fox Sports on the new sense of openness and alignment between all parties that “There is nothing hidden. There is a feeling that we have to change. We have suffered a lot as a code. We are committed to solving the problems. “

It’s not yet clear how the new model will benefit the lower grades and trajectories of the sport. For those on the fringes of the home field on a Saturday morning or those looking for a way to bridge the gap down to the Super Rugby level, there are still many questions they would like to answer.

Will the new approach mean more funding for all grades of the sport or is it exclusively focused on Super Rugby and the Wallabies? Will the RA’s participation in Super Rugby clubs also mean there will be more effective national competition connecting the younger grades with the higher levels of the sport? How will the female side of the sport benefit?

But if the anticipated financial savings are realized and business growth is achieved, it is definitely a positive step forward.

The exact details of the model are still being finalized, but with the Super Rugby competition hosting teams from Fiji and Samoa in 2022 and the suggestion that the new centralized model will be agreed by the end of this year, it looks like the next 12 months are going to be full of excitement for the sport of rugby in Australia.

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