Internationals New Zealand Rugby League in Crisis

westie stylz_old

This is scary.

I've chopped a bit out of the article but there is so much in here I had to leave most of it in. If the NZRL was a business they would probably be in prison for a combination of powermongering, incompetence and fraud besides the obvious bankruptcy.

League: NZRL clashes threaten league reforms
5:00AM Sunday February 25, 2007
By David Fisher

It has all the hallmarks of a struggle for power in a tinpot Central American nation. It has (electoral) executions, a shambolic system, rebellion in the ranks and questions about manoeuvres some suspect are designed to extend political power rather than address issues of the day.

Welcome to the New Zealand Rugby League, whose leaders meet this Friday in yet another watershed vote which is embroiled in politics and uncertainty.

It has an acting chairman some claim was self-appointed - Andrew Chalmers, whose rise to power came in circumstances two directors who left the board now question. Since his appointment, Chalmers has been criticised by some as being too dictatorial.

It has just had an independent review by Price WaterhouseCoopers who use polite language to describe an administration which is effectively a shambles. Chalmers himself says the review was requested because of the need for reform and maintains that his chairmanship is aimed at improving the governance of the sport........

.........This time, the vote comes after six months of confusion, frustration and finally anger. There is a feeling from some district leagues, and from within his own board, that Chalmers may have assumed power and is answerable to no one.

The vote promises to be a showdown between Chalmers, his supporters and the remnants of his board. League clubs from across the country are arrayed behind opposing factions - they are warriors in the fray and the casualties of the game's poor administration........

............The most recent figures from the Sport and Recreation Council show that numbers of people playing league slipped from 30,249 in 2000 to 15,136 three years later. Similarly, at secondary schools, the number of young people playing has fallen from 2376 in 1999 to 1393 in 2005.

League doesn't even feature in Sparc's latest list of the 15 most popular sports in the country.

Things began to get really bad last October when the then chairman, Sel Bennett, fudged Australian Nathan Fien's nationality to get him in the Kiwis.

It gave the NZRL an $88,000 legal bill. That was money spent trying to argue the impossible - that Fien's great-grandmother was actually his grandmother, which would make him eligible to play.............

There is a whole lot more on the Fien fiasco in the article, most of it new to us as to how it went down.


The minutes of the November 3 meeting suggest Chalmers was given permission to act in an advanced role - but the PWC report commissioned by Chalmers a month later warns that "minutes taken are brief and do not clearly record actions or the individuals responsible".

Burgess and Douglas say Chalmers was given permission to handle only the Fien affair for the NZRL. They are adamant he was not voted in as acting chairman. Burgess said: "He was handed [the job] to fill in for Peter Douglas as PR man for the media, only. And that's when the power trip started.

"The only three-or four-way phone conference we had was [about] the dismissal of Sel Bennett and I was totally against that. And I rang him and told him."

In preparation for this weekend's meeting, one district has legal opinion that says if there was no vote, then Chalmers has no legal authority. Burgess, who first said he was forbidden by Chalmers to talk but then spoke anyway, said: "I'd like to think we are there for football and not for a power trip."

On December 14, Chalmers hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers to review the league's governance structures. A copy of the report, obtained by the Herald on Sunday, describes even basic areas lacking. PWC partner Paul Clark wrote: "The NZRL is lacking formal governance structures, processes and procedures."

"The day for well-intentioned amateurs is on the decline," he continued. "Sports administration is a skill in itself."

Then he spelled out the problems.

Board members were involved in management, there was no charter for the board and no evaluation of board performance. Minutes were brief and didn't record actions properly, there was no analysis of past performance, no code of conduct, no reporting on gaming funds, procedures for dealing with conflicts of interest or expected standards of ethical and moral behaviour. There wasn't even a business plan.

It seems odd when set against Auckland Rugby League, which is large, organised and financially stable. The ARL has a strategic plan setting out its direction for the next five years - NZRL does not. The ARL accounts are complete - NZRL's accounting for pokie charity money is lacking, according to the report. The ARL has even begun to provide mentoring for other districts - something that should be a core function of the parent body.

Chalmers says the PWC report was undertaken because the board understood the need to improve in all areas, particularly the application of "sound and proper governance".

"The full PWC report covers a complete gambit of areas and like all organisations, the NZRL has some weaknesses. PWC were also quick to praise the efforts being undertaken to improve governance at the NZRL and will be undertaking a thorough follow-up review in the next 6-8 weeks."

ARL chairman Cameron McGregor, an accountant, sees 80 per cent of the changes mooted by Chalmers as effective.

"But what concerns us is that he is a committee of one. Other directors on the New Zealand board I have spoken to seem to be as much in the dark as anybody."

Friday's constitution changes promise much. They would broaden district involvement, bring in independent directors who would have skills lacking. It would also increase the numbers of NZRL board members from six to nine.

But the agenda for Friday's meeting, as it is written, leaves no room for consultation, which has frustrated McGregor and upset districts.

The new constitution can apparently be voted on, not debated.

The agenda for the meeting has one matter for business - confirming a constitution that everyone wants to talk about but fears they will not have the chance.

Chalmers says otherwise: "The overwhelming call from all our stakeholders is for reform, transparency, and most importantly accountability. The board is delivering the opportunity for discussion and debate as requested by members...The outcome will be the result of a full disclosure of information and constitutionally democratic vote by the NZRL's affiliates and members."

"He needs to take his whole board with him," McGregor said. "There have been too many ad hoc decisions without board consultation. He's a one-man band. He's not taking the game with him. A good leader takes the game with him."

Other leagues aren't so bothered about the Chalmers regime - which is due to end in April when he stands down (although there is nothing to prevent him seeking re-election). Bill Liddell, chairman of Bay of Plenty Rugby League, is delighted with Chalmers after he sorted out a local turf war involving a Taupo league club. "Since Andrew Chalmers came along, things seem to be moving quite swiftly. He's easy to talk to, and what he says makes sense."

Another district chair says: "He's very charming, no pun intended. He's been visiting all the districts - he's politicking a wee bit, I think."

It would take serious charm school to win back Peter Douglas.

It's two months since he turned up early for the December 8 board meeting to prepare and was called into Chalmers' office. He stood there as Chalmers read out a suspension letter, while handing him the suspension notice.

"I left a message for him the day after it happened. I said 'this is wrong, a mistake, you have to fix it'."

He hasn't heard from Chalmers since.

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