The news that the Chairman of the Australian Rugby League is to be paid $300,000 to organise next year’s Rugby League World Cup raises serious questions about transparency and accountability by the administrators of major sports generally.
When News Limited papers revealed last week that Colin Love is to be paid $150,000 to run the World Cup, as part of a secret deal approved by the International Rugby League Board (of which he is Chairman), the reports were treated with contempt by Love and other officials. It was none of the media’s business, and presumably none of the fans’ business either.
And it now appears that neither Love nor any other official corrected an error in the story. The payment is actually $300,000, not $150,000 as reported.
The campaign to force Love to abandon the deal is being driven by News Limited newspapers. News is a 50% owner in the National Rugby League; the ARL, headed by Love, owns the other 50%.
The bad blood between the ARL and News is hardly a state secret. But Love’s unwise request to be paid to run the World Cup is giving momentum for calls for there to be one administration for rugby league in Australia. The present position — two boards, two CEOs, and two costly administrative structures — is a hangover from the post-Super League peace settlement.
The Souths Rabbitohs CEO Shane Richardson is reported in today’s Daily Telegraph as calling for one governing body, saying “we have got more boards than Midge Farrelly.” The momentum for change will grow and get a boost from the largesse Love sought, and got.
But the issue raises questions for all major sports. The level of accountability when it comes to the salaries and other benefits enjoyed by major sports officials is poor.
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No one doubts that either the AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou, or his NRL equivalent, David Gallop, are worth the substantial six figure sums they earn.
Just as we all know how much John Howard earns, or how much Morris Iemma earns, the salary packages of the top administrators in major sporting bodies should not be a secret.
Every major sport is the recipient of substantial funds from federal and state governments. The way to force accountability is for governments to make a certain level of public disclosure on salaries, travel and administrative expenses a condition of funding support.
There is not much doubt the rigid application by officials of the salary cap on clubs players is not matched when it comes to their own “salary cap”.