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Thread: O'Neill dismisses funding backflip/Struggling clubs must stop pretending

  1. #1
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    Jul 2006

    O'Neill dismisses funding backflip/Struggling clubs must stop pretending

    O'Neill dismisses funding backflip | The Australian

    ARU chief executive John O'Neill will remain open-minded about the future of the game's grass roots, but he is unlikely to rescind a decision to phase out multi-million-dollar funding to the Premier Rugby clubs in Sydney and Brisbane.

    The 22 Premier Rugby clubs have written to O'Neill, requesting the ARU revokes the decision to end their funding at the end of the year.

    The decision has led to a move to form a Super League-style, 10-team national club competition, but O'Neill will not countenance any new version of the defunct Australian Rugby Championship.

    "I'm yet to respond to the clubs, but I'm going to," O'Neill said. "I've received a letter in good faith and good spirit. It's got some errors in it, which we will correct.

    "Premier Rugby funding was initiated in 2000 and to date $20million has gone into it and that needs to be recognised.

    "ARC (Australian Rugby Championship) had to be dismantled, sadly, because it was unaffordable.

    "The repositioning of club rugby is something the ARU will be involved in together with the states. Funding is one issue and we are taking that on board.

    "You've got to say, how has that money been used? Has it been used to pay players? There is a question mark over whether clubs should pay players. I don't know the answer to this, but it is something we have to talk about with the clubs and with the states."

    O'Neill said he had heard about the proposed 10-team competition, but he had not received any details in writing.

    It is understood the Super competition would involve five teams from NSW, three from Queensland and one each from the ACT and Western Australia.

    The three powerful Sydney clubs, Eastern Suburbs, Randwick and Sydney University, along with Brisbane's Sunnybank and Gold Coast, are believed to be involved.

    "I've heard of a Heineken Cup-style competition and look, there's lots of options around," O'Neill said.

    "I haven't seen any paperwork on it. Jim L'Estrange and Arvid Petersen (NSW officials) have said it's 10 teams, the best of the best, club-based, played over the top of other competitions.

    "We have to be conscious of what would happen to the other clubs. Does that just concentrate the talent in those eight to 10 clubs?

    "We have to be careful in constructing any new competition that we understand the risks across the board.

    "For me it's all hypothetical. I'm not saying that club rugby is not on my radar, but there is no ARC II coming. That's not on my radar.

    "I think where club rugby is this year, in Sydney in any case, I got the impression they were pretty happy going back to what they were, but I'm also conscious that club rugby is not homogenous.

    "When we talk about club rugby in Sydney it is very different to club rugby in Brisbane. And that's the geographic reality of Australia.

    "Once I get the letter back to them we'll all get in a room. I'm a believer in the democratic process. I don't want any finger pointing.

    "We have been through a tough four years and we've got to be a bit calm and sensible about the way we conduct our negotiations and discussions."

    Struggling clubs must stop pretending | The Australian

    ONE of the most vexing debates in Australian rugby is the place of club football in the structure of the game in this country.

    ARU chief executive John O'Neill has announced that the funding to the 22 Sydney and Brisbane Premier clubs will end after this year.

    Not surprisingly, the clubs are demanding that the funding be maintained, but their argument is difficult to justify.

    An elite national club competition has been on and off the ARU's agenda since the sport went professional in 1995.

    Instead, the ARU decided to invest in existing club competitions in NSW and Queensland rather than creating an unnecessary national competition.

    The ARU provided the Sydney and Brisbane clubs with funds to recruit fulltime coaches and development officers.

    But the investment has become a financial drain on the ARU's resources without returning a dividend.

    Highly competitive clubs in Sydney are paying head coaches six-figure salaries, while semi-professional players in Sydney and Brisbane are earning between $10,000 to $40,000 a season.

    These player payments include high-profile Wallabies who never actually play for the clubs, but are used as marketing tools.

    Much of the clubs' funding is wasted on poaching players from each other.

    Yet, the clubs themselves derive little or no income from gate receipts, sponsorship and broadcasting rights.

    The Sydney and Brisbane clubs regard themselves as the rugby equivalent of NRL and AFL clubs, but they are not.

    Leading Wallabies have not played club rugby on a week-in, week-out basis since the late 1970s or early 1980s when NSW and Queensland increased the state teams' match schedules. And that was in the amateur era!

    Australia's four Super 14 teams - the Brumbies, Force, Reds and Waratahs - are the closest approximation to the NRL and AFL clubs.

    Without an income stream from television, it is impossible for the clubs to support themselves in a semi-professional environment, which means they will always be going cap in hand to the ARU.

    The ARU has decided it is no longer prepared to prop up the clubs' aspirations to become the third tier of professional Australian rugby.

    Most promising young players are identified at school and are nurtured in the Australian Schoolboys and under-age programs.

    Very few players are discovered and developed in club rugby anymore.

    Yet, it is vitally important that club rugby is supported and nurtured.

    One of the strengths of Australian rugby is the powerful connection between the grassroots (from juniors to seniors) and the elite teams - the Wallabies and Super 14 sides.

    It does not matter if you play tighthead prop for Western Districts A grade team in Brisbane or halfback in fifth grade for Eastern Suburbs in Sydney, you follow the game at the highest levels.

    Participation rates are the building blocks which form the platform of Australian rugby.

    To this end, club rugby must still be supported, but it can no longer pretend to be something it is not.

    In an ideal world, it would be nice to have a professional national club competition to develop the depth of Australian rugby, but that it not going to happen without the largesse of the ARU or TV revenue.

    There is a scheme being developed at the moment to set up a Super League style competition involving 10 teams - from NSW (five), Queensland (three), the ACT and Western Australia.

    The promoters of the competition believe it will be self-sufficient, but they still want the ARU's Premier rugby funding directed towards those 10 clubs. What about the rest?

    The objectives of club rugby need to be completely re-assessed and whatever funding is provided by the ARU has to be more accountable.

    The clubs should never go the way of the defunct Australian Rugby Championship because their history and tradition is important for the future of the game.

    The ARU believes the expansion of Super rugby will improve Australia's depth of talent and once New Zealand and South Africa are on board with the concept of a home-and-away schedule this will clearly be the direction the game will take.

    There will still be a need for a third tier, but this should be in the form of an expanded Australia A and State A team programs, which could perhaps include trans-Tasman competition.

    In this scenario the clubs would effectively revert to being truly amateur organisations, playing the role of guardians of the traditional ethos and values of the game.

    After all that's what makes rugby different to other sports and that is definitely worth preserving.

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  2. #2
    Veteran BLR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    I agree with not giving the old boys clubs so much money but it seems from this O'Neill is just going to let Australian rugby stagnate...where is the money that he is not paying the clubs going to go to? For ARU galas and dinners I suspect....

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  3. #3
    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Well, let me be the first to nominate Rockingham rugby club as the sole West Australian club for this ten team national competition, we might not be the best of the best in the west right now, but if this crock of shit ever gets off the ground, we will get every good young player in the state who is interested in playing S14!

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    C'mon the

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