Could a community ownership model save Australian Rugby?

By Sam Ryan

As the current Super Rugby debacle continues to drag out, two things have become very apparent.


  1. The ARU are in serious financial strife and a long stint in the courts is only going to make matters worse.
  2. The Australian rugby community has lost complete faith in the current administration and board.

 

Things obviously need to change but the problem is, I don’t see how that can happen.

At the moment, the current administration is only accountable to a handful of wealthy men and women who sit on the board.

Those wealthy men and women on the board are only accountable to a handful of other wealthy men and women on the board selection committee.

Outside of those boards, committees and shiny new offices being built on one of the most expensive roads in Sydney, are the rest of us – the Australian rugby community.

The role of the board is to best represent the interests of the Australian rugby community but we all know how well they’ve at done that recently.

At the end of the day, I don’t think individuals on the board or in the administration are the issue anymore. It’s the system that is broken.

For as long as this game is run by a handful of suits in a boardroom, rugby will continue to become more irrelevant in the Australian sporting landscape.

Our only hope, is to embrace our most powerful asset – the wider Australian rugby community.

That’s where a community ownership model may help solve the two main issues I mentioned earlier.

Financially, the ARU have spent more then they have earned almost every year for a long time now and our Super Rugby franchises, however many there are, lose money year on year.

If it wasn’t for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour, the bank account would almost be dry and we’ve got eight long years to wait for that again.

So here is how a community ownership model, similar to that of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, could hypothetically save Australian rugby.

200,000 shares are created for the newly formed Australian Rugby Union Pty Ltd.

50,000 shares are split between each of Australia’s state unions. Each state’s stake and voting rights are determined by its annual playing numbers.

50,000 shares are also split between every official rugby club in Australia. Again each of the club’s stake and voting rights are determined by their playing numbers.

The final 100,000 shares are sold to individuals at $500 each, paid upfront or via 24 equal monthly payments. No individual would be able to purchase more than five shares.

Australian Rugby Union Pty Ltd would become a community owned not for profit entity, owned by a diverse bunch of passionate Australian rugby fans from right around the country and we’d have $50 million in a trust for safekeeping.

Like any corporate entity, the administration and the board would be accountable at all times to the shareholders.

Now I know not every rugby fan is in a position to hand over $500 to help save the game, but by offering shares to each grassroots rugby club, we would ensure the true custodians of the game would get their say. Keep in mind, as individuals can only purchase five shares, even the smallest rugby club in Australia would have roughly as much, if not more of a say than the richest individual share holder.

Finally, we would own our game again.

And sure, a host of wealthy businessmen and women would get a seat at the table, but it can’t be any worse than what we’ve got now.

Through Rugby News, I’ve come across some incredibly intelligent, successful and passionate individuals. They are all actively involved in grassroots rugby clubs in Australia and genuinely want the best for the game. But they’ve never once been asked by the administration what they would do to fix it.

Let’s give those individuals a seat at the table and at the same time, solve our financial woes.

It’s time to take back ownership of the game we love or it might not be around for us to love for much longer.



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