Ten’s outgoing chief executive has reportedly lashed Rugby Australia over the circumstances of Raelene Castle’s resignation as Optus signalled an intention to further delay talks on a new broadcast deal.
The developments put the code into further turmoil as RA chairman Paul McLean prepares to sit down on Monday for talks with 10 former Wallabies captains who wrote a letter expressing their discontent at the state of rugby.
Ten boss Paul Anderson described the failure to keep the network in the loop about corporate leadership changes at RA as “deeply concerning”.
“Ten has been the free to air broadcaster and a major advocate for rugby in Australia for the best part of the last decade – I think the events of last week have been shameful,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We are very concerned at what this means for the game.”
The newspaper also reported that Optus wanted to put off talks about a broadcast deal for 12 months, meaning RA would potentially have to extend their existing deal with Foxtel for another year.
Meanwhile a Rugby Australia board member and one of the group of disgruntled former Wallabies captains are set to meet on Monday, as the troubled code tries to find unity.
The 10 former Wallabies skippers sent a letter expressing their discontent over the state of rugby in Australia to RA last week, a few days before chief executive Raelene Castle stood down.
They said Australian rugby had lost it’s way and had suffered from poor administration and leadership over a number of years and called for new vision, leadership and a plan for the future.
Prior to the letter finding its way into the public domain through the media, RA chairman Paul McLean extended an invitation to the group to meet with his organisation and Monday appears to represent the first step in formal dialogue between the two parties.
The captain’s blueprint includes the establishment of an Australian Rugby Review board.
It would likely comprise of a delegate each from the ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force, two or three from Rugby Australia, one from RUPA and up to eight other appointments.
“It’s about empowering fresh thinking from all the member unions and all the stakeholders to basically use this as an opportunity to get it right,” said Stirling Mortlock, one of the signatories of the letter to RA.
Rugby Union Players’ Association CEO Justin Harrison has endorsed the concept.
“There’s been discontent across a lot of levels of the game,” Harrison said on the ABC’s The Ticket.
“What we are simply asking for is that there is a real effort to formulate an Australian rugby sort of review committee for want of a better description.
“They must develop a review that will report to the game and not just to the board of Rugby Australia, where they will cherry-pick what they believe is right for them.
“The committee will report to the state unions, the associated members, the community clubs, schools and partners, the committee is obligated to report to everyone.”
Harrison said the proposes review organ was part of the root and branch reform and transformation of the game RUPA called for after it thrashed out an interim wages deal with RA last week.
Current players also see the situation as an opportunity to implement change, as RA looks to deal with a potentially massive financial shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic and still has to negotiate a new broadcast deal.
“Our immediate focus was just this pay deal but there’s clearly an opportunity now to change the game in various ways and these guys (the captains) obviously see a way to do that,” Rebels and Wallabies playmaker Matt Toomua told AAP.
“It’s interesting that’s for sure. Rugby has always been a sport that has very public administrative issues.
“I think you’ve got to be careful sometimes of the devil you don’t know than the one you do.
“Having an actual plan and a way forward would be my suggestion, but these guys are much smarter than me and I’m sure they’ve thought that out.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now