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Volume 7 No. 83

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Former National Rugby League side Canterbury Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle was confirmed as Rugby Australia's new CEO, according to Tom Decent of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Rugby Australia -- formerly the Australian Rugby Union -- had a "tumultuous" year off the field and its rebrand in October shows the organization is "keen to move in a fresh direction." Rugby Australia Chair Cameron Clyne said that Castle was the "standout applicant" from a list of more than 200 candidates, which included sporting and business leaders from across the globe (SMH, 12/12). In Sydney, Andrew Webster wrote female. Kiwi. Last job in rugby league. Castle said, "Four years ago, they said the same thing when I joined the Bulldogs. They said, 'Kiwi, female going into the blokey world of rugby league. ... Who the bloody hell would've thought that was a good idea?' Four years later, people who are close enough to rugby league would say, 'She survived, she built some good relationships and did some good things.' I did that because of who I am as a business person and an individual. I don't want people to speak about me being a good female administrator. I want to be known as a good administrator." Castle "stands on her own two feet" as an accomplished sporting exec, having "survived five tricky years" as the CEO of the Bulldogs and six years before that at the helm of Netball New Zealand. She said, "While the female angle is not for me to make a focus, I am proud to be the first female CEO of a major rugby country" (SMH, 12/12).

'FRESH SET OF EYES': In Sydney, Wayne Smith wrote "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" seems like an "appropriate motto" for Castle. It has been "that sort of year for Australian rugby." Defeats at the hands of New Zealand teams in Super Rugby, a 15th straight season without a sight of the Bledisloe Cup, another "embarrassing loss" to England and twin defeats to Scotland. Castle "had a role in none of this" and, until she was offered her new job on Monday, her "natural instinct would have been to rejoice in how her native New Zealand continued to make life miserable for Australian rugby." But it is "her responsibility now," and it was "heartening to see that her initial response was to regroup and come out stronger." Castle said, "I think the nature of sport is that you will have challenging years, but if you look back to the last World Cup (in '15), the Wallabies were in the final. Everyone seems to have forgotten that quite quickly. It was a tough year. No one’s hiding from that but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger." She is not a rugby insider but, as Clyne acknowledged, that is "not necessarily a problem." Clyne said, "You can always look at it from both sides, coming in with rugby knowledge. Raelene is a fresh set of eyes without traditional alliances" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/13).

The National Rugby League "vowed to review the third-party agreement system in an effort to rid the game of salary cap rorting once and for all," according to Simon Brunsdon of FOX SPORTS. The Rugby League Players Association revealed in a statement that the governing body "agreed to review the TPA system, which it says is largely to blame for clubs breaching the salary cap." It comes in the wake of Manly "being issued a breach notice after the NRL claimed to have found potential salary cap rorting over the past five years." The NRL "could completely overhaul the third-party system that often pushes clubs over the salary cap." The RLPA said, "What the preliminary findings do highlight is the need to review the current third-party agreement system. ... As part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the NRL and RLPA have agreed to undertake a review of the TPA system" (FOX SPORTS, 12/12). In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko reported while Manly's cheating was not "on the same scale as Parramatta" -- the Eels overspent to the tune of A$3M over a similar period -- "the common denominator has been dodgy TPAs." Manly "is expected to avoid having competition points deducted" from its '18 campaign, but is "facing the prospect of not being able to recruit any further players." The Sea Eagles have about A$500,000 ($378,000) "left in their salary cap, but those funds will be all but erased" once head office takes into account the "off-the-book payments made over the past five seasons." Integrity "issues aside, TPAs were already under fire for creating a disparity between the clubs." While there "is an argument" that corporate dollars should not be turned away, it is "evident that some NRL clubs have greater access to TPAs than others" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/12).

KELLY IN HOT WATER: In Sydney, Dean Ritchie reported the Sydney Roosters "have been sensationally dragged into Manly’s salary cap drama" after the NRL issued a breach notice to Roosters CEO Joe Kelly. He reportedly "received the breach for his alleged role" as Sea Eagles CEO from Oct. '14 through Sept. '16 -- "a position he stepped down from." Kelly is one of two club officials "facing deregistration by the NRL." The other official cannot be named "on legal advice." Kelly, "whose mobile phone was switched off on Tuesday," was appointed Roosters CEO in April. He "is understood to be shattered at the prospect of being kicked out of rugby league" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/12).

BREAKING THE SILENCE: Ritchie also reported new Manly CEO Lyall Gorman said that the Sea Eagles will not "be rushed into responding to the breach notice." Speaking for the first time since the NRL on Monday notified the Sea Eagles of the findings of a "lengthy investigation," Gorman said that the club "had not had time to properly peruse documents pertaining to the potential breaches." Gorman said, "This investigation, as I understand it, took six months and we were only provided with the detailed document on (Monday afternoon). There is a significant amount to work through. It’s a process that can’t be rushed, a process that needs to be right to protect the best interests of all" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/11).

The "era of interventions from armchair rules officials is drawing to a close" after new protocols were announced on Sunday preventing tournament organizers from penalizing players for rules violations noticed by TV viewers, according to John Westerby of the LONDON TIMES. From next month, at least one official at every event will be assigned to monitor broadcast coverage "for any potential violations" and advice from TV viewers "will not be considered." The new protocols, agreed by a working group led by the R&A and the USGA, are "designed to prevent a repeat of an incident that affected Lexi Thompson in April during the ANA Inspiration in California." Thompson was "reduced to tears after missing out on a probable victory following a four-shot penalty imposed due to a tip-off" from a TV viewer, who complained about her "marking her ball incorrectly" during the third round. Penalties levied on the advice of TV viewers have been an "increasingly controversial part of the game in recent years." At the Masters in '13, Tiger Woods was penalized two shots after "unwittingly dropping his ball in the wrong place, an error only noticed once a television viewer had phoned tournament officials." Rules officials will be watching closely on a broadcast feed at the course "to identify and resolve rules issues as they arise." The only video evidence to be used by rules officials will be from the tournament's broadcast partner (LONDON TIMES, 12/11). The BBC's Iain Carter wrote it is a "welcome move because golf was out of step with pretty much every other sport where spectators at home are powerless to influence events, even when they spot a blatant rules breach." The Thompson incident "highlighted a situation where a tournament was being played under a false scoreboard until her mistake had been highlighted -- and that was a day late." Thompson said, "In my case, I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future" (BBC, 12/11).

An Australian Football League staff member was "forced out of head office following a string of sexual harassment complaints." The male employee was accused of "making inappropriate comments" toward his female colleagues. Following one complaint from a female staff member, other women reportedly "came forward to share similar incidents." The staff member resigned last week when faced with the complaints (HERALD SUN, 12/12).

The Roscommon County board of the Gaelic Athletic Association on Monday unanimously passed a motion calling on the GAA to end its affiliation with Sky Sports, but the association does not "expect it to be put before next year's Congress." Last year, the GAA signed a five-year extension with pay-TV channel Sky Sports, reported to be worth an estimated €55M ($64.6M). The deal has been "met with criticism in some quarters, with concerns expressed over large portions of communities who do not have access to subscription channels" (RTÉ, 12/12).

The prospect of an on-field battle between India and Pakistan "appears bleak at this time." However, an "off-field war of words between top cricket officials from both nations is getting intense with every passing day." After the BCCI chose not to include any bilateral matches with Pakistan in its proposed Future Tours Programme for '19-23 during its special general meeting on Monday, the Pakistan Cricket Board "took strong objection to the structure," saying that it would not sign the document unless India agrees to play Pakistan in this period (HINDUSTAN TIMES, 12/12).