As the saying goes, if you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to serve as a dire warning. The latter is the role of most boards of sporting organisations with their endemic conflicts of politics and egos. We have one such prime example today from the Australian Rugby Union’s former chairman, Dilip Kumar, who now regrets his role in shafting John O’Neill and would like him back in the rugby fold.

Kumar tells the SMH O’Neill should be put in charge of the International Rugby Board when that job becomes vacant next year. But the insight to boardroom failure is in this quote:

With hindsight, we should not have let John go. It was a full ARU board decision … and the board at the time felt he had been there for ten years, which is a long time. The usual tenure for a CEO at a successful company is around four years.

I wonder which clown told the other clowns that. My experience is that successful companies tend to hang on to their CEOs much longer than that – four years would be more like the average tenure of a CEO at large companies these days as those perceived to be failing are chopped earlier and takeovers and mergers take their toll.

The stories of conflicts between O’Neill and soccer bankroller Frank Lowy continue to leak while arguably our top sports administrator commits to nothing.

Fortunately for O’Neill, we know just where he is needed most: netball. The ACL-snapping netball ladies are doing a remarkable job of travelling several years behind the times. For example, Liz Ellis, Australia’s most capped netballer, national co-captain and captain of the undefeated Sydney Swifts going into tomorrow night’s grand final is being paid a total of $15,000 for playing netball this year. And she’s one of the lucky ones.

The players at least are seeking professional help, signing up with the AWU and getting Bill Shorten to do their collective bargaining. The aptly named Bill must cut quite a figure taking on the netball Nazis.

And why is he bothering? It’s good for unionism’s image. The netball deal must have been done before Beaconsfield came along.

Peter Fray

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