Masters draws a picture around ‘conflict of interest’ issues and the new ARL Commission being at odds with Gallop’s position and wanting to stamp their authority. The story makes interesting reading – it is re-published below in the interests of League fans having full disclosure.
Out of favour, out of friends
| by Roy Masters – Rugby League Columnist | 9th June 2012 | Link to on-line story. |
The advent of the ARL Commission spelt the end for David Gallop, writes Roy Masters.
God so loved the world, he didn’t send a committee. He sent himself.
Deities don’t need committees and they don’t work in sport either, a religion in many secular countries, such as Australia.
Rugby league, the favourite winter sport of NSW and Queensland, is desperately in need of a messiah following the departure this week of the ARL Commission chief executive David Gallop.
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NRL. Grand Final 2011. Manly Sea Eagles vs New Zealand Warriors.ANZ Stadium.pic shows Brett Stewart having a long chat with David GallopSunday 2nd October, 2011SMH SPORT pics by anthony johnson
[Caption for photo – Tension … Manly’s Brett Stewart gave Gallop a piece of his mind after receiving his premiership medal last year. Gallop had him suspended for four games after the alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl in 2009, and refused to apologise when Stewart was found not guilty. Photo: Anthony Johnson]
Gallop ruled the game for 11 years, often absolutely, because he was answerable to a moribund board divided between two groups that didn’t trust each other.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd and the ARL, the governing body of the game for a century, were forced to unite at the end of the Super League war and the then 36-year-old Gallop, a former lawyer employed by News Ltd, became its chief executive early in 2002.
The News Ltd directors were too busy running a media empire and the ARL directors were too preoccupied with internecine squabbles between NSW and Queensland for Gallop to receive much direction.
[Caption for photo – CANBERRA – AUGUST 25: Bulldogs fans show off their feelings during the round 24 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Bulldogs played at Canberra Stadium in Canberra, Australia on August 25, 2002. (Photo by Nick Wilson/Getty Images) Cheated … Bulldogs Fans reacted angrily after Gallop docked the Bulldogs 37 competition points and imposed a $500,000 fine in 2002 for the club’s $1 million salary cap breach. Instead of challenging for a premiership, the Bulldogs finished bottom of the ladder. Photo: Nick Wilson
So he (Gallop) grew in the job, disqualifying salary cap cheats the Bulldogs and Storm from finals football; fining the Bulldogs $150,000 for failing to behave ”in a way which protected the game’s image” following accusations of sexual assault, despite charges later being dropped; deregistering Todd Carney for a year for serial misbehaviour; suspending Manly’s Brett Stewart for four weeks and dumping him as the face of the game after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl, and then refusing to apologise when the fullback was acquitted of the charges.
When News Ltd finally left the game early this year, the first condition of their departure was that Gallop be appointed as chief executive of the new governing body for four years. The ARL agreed. Maybe they knew the new rulers, an independent commission of eight directors, needed some corporate history at the top.
The deep divisions between News Ltd and the ARL, festering suspicion between the states and distrust among the 16 NRL clubs meant that all parties agreed the new commission could not have anyone who had any ties to the code in the previous three years. In short, all the quality committee candidates were disqualified.
Gallop inherited two immediate problems: a board with no recent administrative experience in rugby league and the lingering suspicion that News Ltd had installed their man to do their bidding, particularly to protect their interests in Foxtel and Fox Sports where they hold management rights.
The accusation that Gallop was a News Ltd stooge is at odds with his personal ambition to execute a billion-dollar broadcasting rights deal to enrich the code for the next five years.
He had been heavily criticised by the ARL and the clubs for the previous deal, which brought in $500 million over six years, compared with the AFL’s arrangement of $780 million over five years. But the AFL isn’t half owned by News Ltd. Gallop had been compromised by the media company’s half interest in both Fox Sports and the NRL.
His desire to deliver a deal that would redeem his reputation this year collided with the ambition of some of the commissioners to use the broadcasting rights to enhance their corporate reputations.
One commissioner, Ian Elliott, an advertising executive at George Patterson a decade ago, has been delegated by the commission’s new chairman, John Grant, to take charge of the broadcasting negotiations. The corporate strategist Greenhill Caliburn, part-owned by the former AFL commissioner Graeme Samuel, was appointed to join the negotiations, further distancing Gallop.
If he suspected he was being alienated, it was confirmed when the financial state of the Gold Coast Titans was exposed earlier this year.
Appalled by the smoke-and-mirrors accounting in the privately owned Titans’ accounts, Gallop was inclined to close the club down and restart it under another name with a new proprietor.
But the Titans’ principal owner, Michael Searle, had developed a friendship with Gary Pemberton, the former Qantas and TAB boss, who is generally regarded as the most capable of the eight commissioners. Pemberton and Grant intervened in the stand-off between the code’s administration and Searle, with Gallop sidelined from any involvement in the eventual financial resolution.
Shortly after, Gallop attended a businessmen’s lunch in Brisbane. He and the AFL’s executive commissioner, Andrew Demetriou, were the principal speakers in what was, in effect, a debate over which code was supreme in Australia.
Demetriou chanted his favourite mantra, the number of children playing Auskick, the AFL’s modified game, and the indigenous code’s genuine boast – crowd figures in Melbourne. Gallop concentrated on national TV ratings, where rugby league is a clear winner, albeit thanks to State of Origin viewers.
Sitting in the audience, Grant was impressed with Gallop’s clear points win over the boss of a code which had lured two stars of the Brisbane Broncos to defect for million-dollar contracts.
But Gallop, buoyed by his victory and forgetting he could no longer speak unilaterally on rugby league, made an error. He announced that a second Brisbane team was an inevitability.
There are sound reasons for this. TV wants it and will pay more for it. Queenslanders are the most parochial fans in the nation. They watch, in order, the Broncos, Cowboys, Titans and then the Storm, because the Melbourne club has three of the code’s best players, all Queenslanders.
Channel Nine and Fox Sports have indicated they will pay more for broadcasting rights if there is a second Brisbane team, because it increases their programming and subscription opportunities. But Grant was dismayed, telling his fellow lunch guests Gallop was out of order.
Meanwhile, the commission had been placing increasing pressure on the administration to produce numerous reports. After all, they were devoid of corporate memory and faced a quick learning curve. But one staffer reports that two commissioners arrived two hours late for his presentation, while another two talked on their mobile phones.
It is understood Grant toured the NRL clubs and a recurring theme was that Gallop was ”too reactive”. But as one leader of another code said: ”If someone did a trip around my constituency, they’d say I’m not popular, either.”
In any case, rugby league is a code of over-reaction. A dubious try in a State of Origin match, the whisper a coach has lost the support of his board, a player charged with a traffic offence or photographed urinating behind a pub – all become newspaper sagas for three or four days.
It’s a soap opera which keeps the code on the back pages and as the lead story on the TV sports news. As often as Grant might like to kill these stories, they have a life of their own and fuel the lucrative broadcasting rights.
When the commission met in Melbourne last month to coincide with the first State of Origin game, Gallop looked increasingly wan, as if his life force had drained away.
Grant’s new portfolio type of government, in which commissioners were increasingly involved in the administration, was at odds with the corporate style of the Australian Sports Commission, where Gallop is acting chairman.
On Monday afternoon, Grant called him to a meeting, with the result that Gallop left the following day, although Grant told the subsequent media conference Gallop was not pushed. The settlement of a year’s salary was in accordance with his new contract with Grant, fuelling speculation Gallop’s cards had been marked four months earlier by a board desperate to be seen to be making a difference.
The head-hunting firm Spencer Stuart has been appointed to search for his replacement. The executive charged with this is John Mumm, a board member of the Australian Rugby Union. He was also responsible for producing the list of candidates for the commission, delving into his treasure chest of contacts to identify the trophy directors.
To this extent, the commission can be charged with a conflict of interest. After all, they clearly believe Mumm did a fine job in selecting them and have rewarded him by asking him to find their chief executive.
The former federal sports minister Mark Arbib has ruled himself out as a candidate. He left politics to spend more time with his family and Gallop was never off the phone.
Arbib said this week: ”I’m working for [James] Packer now, but sport is the thing I’m interested in most.”
But does Grant, managing director of a $150 million Brisbane IT firm, want a chief executive or a chief of staff? There are parallels here with another code, soccer.
When the incumbent ARU boss, John O’Neill, was chief executive of Football Federation Australia, his first three years with its chairman, Frank Lowy, were harmonious and they achieved great results using lucrative funding from a federal government desperate that the world game should prosper here.
But Lowy slowly assumed a position akin to an executive chairman, subjugating O’Neill to a role that resembled chief of staff – the two times Sports Administrator of the Year moved back to rugby union.
Australian sport has always been best served by dictatorships or duopolies. Demetriou rules the AFL – it also has a commission, but he is a member. Rugby league’s commission does not include its chief executive and is therefore a model that creates an us-and-them situation.
Rugby league prospered during the Ken Arthurson-John Quayle era which followed the uncompromising rule of Kevin Humphreys.
The danger now is that a strong-willed administrator will not put his hand up for Gallop’s old job, for fear he will be ruled by committee, or by a chairman who believes he is also a chief executive.
Gallop was a novice when he first took up the role and mistakes were made. He never was able to tame the ‘bad boys’ of league and his ‘stonewall face’ in the face of angry media backed by a ‘public who wanted answers’ never allowed himself to be seen as a real friend to Rugby League. He did not have the Quale/Aurthurson touch – his roots were not from Rugby League – he was a Lawyer working for Fox/News Ltd and was a Fox/News Ltd. appointee.
It now appears that in trying to ramp up the asking price from his former boss’s for the new broadcast rights, gave the new ARL Commissioners room to move and plot against him. John Grant – the new head of the ARL Commission has a lot to prove to justify Gallop’s exit.