#rugbyaustralia

Raelene hands back the keys to the Castle

The Giteau Law will be reviewed in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Rugby Australia’s (RA) board losing faith in CEO Raelene Castle was inevitable. We have long held that RA’s leadership team had no rudder.

FNF Media has openly criticised the lack of performance as its biggest failing – from the ridiculous state of affairs where management had no relationship with the head coach of the core franchise to the focus on “woke” causes which alienated fans (aka core customers). Folau’s saga and broadcast rights could have been handled far more sensibly. They weren’t.

Let’s be clear. COVID19 was a catalyst, not the cause.

Any business must adapt to transitions in the marketplace but never for the sake of chasing popular causes which have little or nothing to do with core competencies. That is where RA went wrong.

Castle commented,

I love rugby on every level and I will always love the code and the people I have had the honour of working with since I took this role…I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flack and do everything possible to serve everyone’s best interests…

“…In the last couple of hours, it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need…

“…The game is bigger than any one individual – so this evening I told the Chair that I would resign from the role I will do whatever is needed to ensure an orderly handover. I wish the code and everyone who loves rugby nothing but the best and I would like to thank the people I work with and the broader rugby community for their enormous support.

We believe that a fish rots from the head. The lack of decisive crisis management talent has led to this situation. Ultimately the ‘customers’ deserted in droves. We tabulated the differences between the management of RA vs our rivals across the ditch.

RA needs a new leader who has grown up in the game. Who understands the customers. Who understands the investment required at the junior and club rugby level so the professional side can incubate talent. To get to a stage where the regular local competitions don’t lose players to overseas leagues that have ended up hollowing out the ability to run sustainable club competitions.

The new leadership team can start by removing/demoting any staff in positions of authority who laid down threats of walking if Castle was pushed. There is a distinct difference between issuing ultimatums and raising dissenting voices during crises. RA doesn’t need any more poison during a rebuild.

Produce the right product and the fans will return. It’s that simple.

Rugby Australia chokes on its own incompetence

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After exchanging a politically correct, vomit-inducing and nose-bleedingly insincere prepared statement drafted by professional media consultants -not lost on anyone – the fact remains that Rugby Australia (RA) is the loser in the Israel Folau saga. We can forget the original source of the dismissal and the rights and wrongs of it. If RA thought it had a proper case, the legal fees (which it claimed were worth saving and settling out of court) would have been way less than the $10m payout he was demanding. So much for supporting the very communities the RA plasters all over its website.

The outcome was the result of management incompetence in thinking that appearing woke trumped legal due process. In full knowledge that Folau had a $1.6mn war chest (courtesy of Christians, free speech advocates and rugby fans alike) to take up the case against his former employer, the board was forced to buckle and issue an apology to the former rugby star, which would never have been necessary if it had a smidgen of judgment in the beginning.

RA CEO Raelene Castle can laugh off “wildly inaccurate” speculation on the $8mn rumoured settlement but the fact is the board knows the exact amount. Israel and Maria Folau wouldn’t have been grinning like Cheshire cats were he to have signed away for less than his rescinded contract. It will be fascinating to see the composition of the 2019/20 reported figures that will be published in due course. Expect some accounting trickery to fudge it into the numbers.

Castle said a few months back that the franchise could weather paying out Izzy Folau’s $10m claim. Although CM is not sure that paying out $10m + costs – which would wipe out almost 2/3rds of the $18mn in cash on the balance sheet – is something a CEO should think is worth boasting about. What she has long needed to focus on is arresting the declining operating performance. Yet she stated emphatically that the RA won’t have to make changes to the budget. Maybe her lawyers pieced together a multi-year drawdown of the sum to be paid to smooth out the ultimate impact. 

The RA franchise is the laughing stock of the rugby world. So transparent is the lack of accountability, woeful internal coordination and deteriorating financial results that it requires nothing more than a drastic overhaul if the entity is to thrive.

Former coach Michael Cheika let loose that it was no secret he had no relationship with the CEO and a very poor one with Chairman Cameron Clyne. This coming from the very individual running by far the biggest RA franchise. Despite possessing by far the worst performance record of any Wallabies coach, management persevered with a man who didn’t have a leg to stand on but cast aspersions on the executive team.

Therein lies the problem. RA can push all of the woke causes (e.g. LGBTQI+, gender equality) it likes, but if the ultimate end customer derives no value from it, it is a fruitless exercise which can’t escape the scrutiny of the free market come time to pay bills.

Castle may believe that this was a commercial decision for the sake of providing certainty. Had she done the right thing from the start she could have avoided getting embroiled in a scandal that has exposed the poor governance within.

Isn’t it odd that the LGBT activists are now attacking the very institution that set out to promote them – RA. CM has never thought much of his tweets but the reaction to them has been so over the top. The faux outrage mob finds oppression in everything.

Castle should resign and if she won’t the board should fire her despite her defiance against the bleeding obvious – she is in over her head. Fans won’t return with the status quo.

Get woke, go broke.

I have no relationship with the CEO & not much with the chairman

Doesn’t this speak volumes? As Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika announced his resignation he let loose that it was no secret he had no relationship with the CEO Raelene Castle and a very poor one with Chairman Cameron Clyne.

How could it be that top management had no rapport with one of the most senior line managers of the flagship product? Is it any wonder the Folau debacle got to where it is? Incompetence reigns supreme.

For a leadership team that bangs on incessantly about inclusion, diversity and cohesion, Cheika’s remarks show how loose the grip was on the very people that needed to be the flashing beacon of the very institution Rugby Australia (RA) proclaims it instills. Where was the partnership?

Time for rebirth. The fans just want a winning team and to achieve that communication between the upper echelons of management and staff is key. As it stands it isn’t hard to fathom that there is next to zero at present. Hence why RA’s results (financial and game) are as abysmal as they are

For Cheika to launch a parting shot of that kind doesn’t smack of professionalism but at the same time it is probably the most truthful expose of the inner workings of the RA cabal.

Toxic employees are bad for any business. In most cases the resentment in the ranks coming from management’s tolerance of people who let poison fester within the workplace only worsens performance of the core. Eventually political cunning gives way to results that doesn’t match the bluster. The question is whether RA can be exorcised quickly enough to enable a proper healing? Given the insistence on being woke, that looks unlikely.

The values RA uphold may seem wonderfully progressive in theory but surely as a body seeking to uphold the pinnacle of sports and sportsmanship it should strive to understand where the future lies for the franchise. It isn’t yearning for diversity or participation prizes. Best look across the ditch for inspiration as to why the All Blacks are so strong. Just read their objective #1: to stay on top of the world. CM guesses NZ coach Steve Hansen has a wonderful bond with his board. You can’t fool kids who lose 100-0 that they played well either. Best start with grass roots that embody the spirit of competition. Embrace it. Then watch the fans flock back to the game.

Time we Cheiked out, DeClyned and binned the deflated Castle

The truculence of Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s is infamous. While he has never shied away from roughing up journalists at media press conferences (like a coach who might have an enviable win record) he couldn’t take a question on his future (around the 3-minute mark in the video). As if he wasn’t going to be asked such a question? His preparation was worse than that of the Wallabies. Cheika said, “Find a little compassion for people that are hurting!” Really? Feel sympathy for a bully? Harden up, snowflake!

Watching the Wallabies last night showed a team with little cohesion and the all too common inability to execute. Is it any wonder fans have grown disinterested. The stats speak to the disaster.

The Wallabies had 64% of possession (68% in 2H) and 62% of the territory (66% in 2H) yet conceded 18 turnovers to England’s 8. England made 172 tackles vs our 73. Clearly, when England had the ball they managed to execute, hence four tries (including two embarrassing intercepts) to one. Dismal.

Post the Rugby World Cup 2019, Cheika has a 50% overall win record. With the All Blacks, it was 17%. England @ 13%. Ireland @ 20%. Even Scotland was @ 50%. Other Wallabies coaches had the following win ratios:

Bob Dwyer – 64% win record

Alan Jones – 68%

Greg Smith – 63%

Rod Macqueen – 79%

Eddie Jones – 58%

John Connolly- 59%

Robbie Deans – 58%

Ewen Mackenzie- 50%

However, the problem in CM’s view isn’t the quality or talent of the players. Far from it. It is the management off the field. Aussie rugby is being systematically destroyed. CM has written before about the falling attendance and drifting profitability. Fans are clearly well and truly tired of the excuses.

It shouldn’t surprise us when Rugby Australia (RA) & NZ Rugby (NZR) reveal primary objectives. It shouldn’t surprise us when RA & NZR reveal primary objectives.

Objective 1 in the NZR 2018 Annual Report is “REMAINING ON TOP OF THE WORLD” (p.18)

Objective 1 in RA’s 2018 Annual Report is written as, “For rugby to continue to be a sport of choice in a rapidly changing society…community coaches are responsible…for creating fun, safe and inclusive environments” (p.10).

Between 2014 vs 2018, RA had the following statistics:

-Wallabies team costs (coach, support etc) +70% ($9.97m)

-Matchday revenue -42.1% ($20.17m)

-Sponsorships -11.5% ($28.23m)

-Player contracts +3.2% ($16.79m)

– Licensing revenue -12.9% ($1.67m)

Has the board reflected on what might be the problem?

It smacks of similar issues that plagued Cricket Australia (CA) leading into the cheating scandal. A culture that thought it was untouchable. The arrogance that they knew better. CA has finally had a cathartic cleansing at the board and coaching level. Results are now starting to show.

If RA wants a new coach, they’d be better off looking to one which promotes fluidity and allows improvisation. The problem with set plays is that it requires the opposition to fall into the trap the attacking team want to set. Simplicity is key.

This video of Coach Brian Clough is a great story of how one man built a team and took it from the bottom of 2nd division to the top of the Premier League. He won two European championships too. Listen to how his players had such great respect for Clough (from the 37th minute).

The three C’s of RA need to go – Chairman Clyne, CEO Castle and Coach Cheika.

Zero points

Coles has joined the list of corporates which believe their customers actually give a damn what Alan Jones said two weeks ago. CM is rather dismayed at the absolute lack of creativity put into woke press releases. Do they just Google a standard DIY template? What do they hope to achieve other than inadvertently out themselves as easily bullied?

Coles said,

Coles values diversity, respect and actively promotes the rights of all of our team members and our customers.”

Did Coles get a flood of actual customers complaining to store managers as opposed to caving in to the faceless left wing activist groups like Sleeping Giants or Mad Fucking Witches? Maybe customers ONLY care about a wide variety of quality produce at decent prices. Just a thought. CM, like most shoppers, have never ventured into a Coles store praying that diversity is being observed.

These are the unimaginative press releases on Alan Jones from other companies,

Anytime Fitness,

The comments made last week by Alan Jones regarding Jacinda Ardern do not represent our view or values,

ME Bank,

We removed all our advertising this morning after the situation as we take this very seriously and these types of comments don’t reflect our values

Snooze,

We take the comment made by Alan Jones on the 15th of August about Jacinda Ardern very seriously. These comments do not reflect the values of Snooze

Bing Lee

The comments made earlier this week on the 2GB breakfast show do not reflect our values...

Koala Mattress,

Koala has cut ties with Alan Jones. We’re a significant buyer in the medium, and it’s something we should have done earlier. Climate change is real, violence against women starts with words and the bloke has had too many chances. @2GB873 time to wake up.

Was “wake up” an unintended oxymoron for the bedding company? Of course Koala is only too happy to endorse the likes of Clementine Ford whose slander makes Jones look like a choir boy.

CM is sure that when recession really starts to bite and revenue dollars are actually even harder to come by than now, these zero value add marketing departments will realize their moral code has absolutely no positive impact on business.

It isn’t just Alan Jones. Israel Folau lit up similar stupidity.

Rugby Australia wrote,

As a sport that is proud of the values of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork that underpin our game globally and our Code of Conduct, we will defend those values and the right for all people to feel safe and welcome in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion or sexuality.

ANZ Bank

We do not support the views of Silver Fern Maria Folau and have made our views known to her employer Netball NZ.”

ASICS

We believe sport is for everyone and we champion inclusivity and diversity…While Israel Folau is entitled to his personal views, some of those expressed in recent social media posts are not aligned with those of ASICS.”

These corporates need to understand that no one cares what values these corporates have. They can decide for themselves without being lectured to like school kids on detention.

2/3rds of Rugby Australia cash would disappear

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Rugby Australia’s (RA) CEO Raelene Castle says that the franchise can weather paying out Izzy Folau’s $10m claim. Although CM is not sure that paying out $10m + costs which would wipe out almost 2/3rds of the $18mn in cash on the balance sheet is something a CEO would think is worth boasting. What she needs to focus on is the declining operating performance.

Hopefully, Chairman Clyne will get his CEO to focus on NZ Rugby (NZR) as a benchmark.

RA took in approximately A$30m in licensing and sponsorship last year. NZR raked in A$65m. More than double for a country with one-fifth the population. Think about it. The advertising base is smaller yet the sponsors must see the returns as superior to do so.

Total revenues for RA sum to around A$110m. NZR takes in A$182m in 2018.

Matchday revenue for RA reached A$20m last year. NZR collected A$28m.

Total assets for RA sum to A$69m. NZR total assets are A$183m. Total equity for RA is A$27m vs NZR at $99m.

Perhaps understanding why the Wallabies franchise saw a 20% fall in revenues in 2018 is a bigger issue. Expenses fell 15% mainly due to slashing Super Rugby team costs in half and player costs by 33%. Without that, the company would have sunk deep in the red.

RA needs to focus on growth not cut itself into oblivion. When it prioritizes its customer base rather than put precious resources into virtue signaling and diversity programs the board wouldn’t need to park 2/3rds of the cash to cover up their catastrophic lack of judgment.

Nonetheless good to know Castle sleeps easy at the thought of losing such magnitudes.

NZ Rugby vs Rugby Australia – the franchise stats

Well, well, we’ll. Who’d a thunk? NZ Rugby (NZR) is focused on the game, not appearing to be woke. Is it any wonder Australia are unlikely to win the Bledisloe Cup for many more years to come. The investment NZR pour into the All Blacks swamps Rugby Australia’s (RA) pittance into the Wallabies because sponsors and fans see the Kiwi franchise for what it is – a united team of winners with returns!

It shouldn’t surprise us when RA & NZR reveal primary objectives.

Objective 1 in the NZR 2018 Annual Report is “REMAINING ON TOP OF THE WORLD” (p.18)

Objective 1 in RA’s 2018 Annual Report is written as, “For rugby to continue to be a sport of choice in a rapidly changing society…community coaches are responsible…for creating fun, safe and inclusive environments” (p.10).

With that RA mantra, NZR is faced with a longer term dilemma. Because the fans might have to consider they might “get tired of all this winning!”

In all seriousness, NZR should seek to form a new version of the Bledisloe with a worthy adversary in Europe because the Wallabies will drift even further away from being competitive with RA focused on such utter malarkey.

Or to even it up, perhaps the All Blacks under-18s should play the Wallabies?

So why the gap? The numbers between the two are as follows.

RA took in approximately A$30m in licensing and sponsorship last year. NZR raked in A$65m. More than double for a country with one-fifth the population. Think about it. The advertising base is smaller yet the sponsors must see the returns as superior to do so.

Total revenues for RA sum to around A$110m. NZR takes in A$182m in 2018.

Match day revenue for RA reached A$20m last year. NZR collected A$28m.

Total assets for RA sum to A$69m. NZR total assets are A$183m. Total equity for RA is A$27m vs NZR at $99m.

Just looking at financial metrics alone, RA is not going to rebuild this franchise without focusing on what NZ already knows. The business has one sole focus – the pride of a nation.

Should we be surprised that Eden Park has been sold out every game since 1962 when the All Blacks play the Wallabies? That’s a franchise. Maybe RA should ask why Australian based attendance of the same series has drifted 20-35% in the last decade.

Until the Wallabies have a priority that focuses on a winning formula that is driven from the top, expect to see turnstiles become rusty.

Pathetic really. This is exactly why the RA board and leadership need a complete overhaul. Amateurs playing against professionals. Get woke. Go broke.

High Priest of Rugby Australia hits the nail on the head

If Rugby Australia (RA) Chairman Cameron Clyne had a decent product he wouldn’t need to worry about sponsors. Sponsors want brand exposure. That requires packed crowds following the Wallabies.

Some quick facts since 2014 vs 2018.

-Wallabies team costs (coach, support etc) +70% ($9.97m)

-Match day revenue -42.1% ($20.17m)

-Sponsorships -11.5% ($28.23m)

-Player contracts +3.2% ($16.79m)

– Licensing revenue -12.9% ($1.67m)

– RA has $18m in cash and equivalents as at 2019.

– RA made $5.87m net profit in 2018 on $119m of revenue but is expected to post a loss in 2019.

The SMH points to the very problems that RA has created for itself. To take the notion that “no” sponsors would want to be associated had they done nothing is absolute garbage. The Australian Christian Lobby might fill the Qantas void…

Does Clyne honestly believe that LGBT staff within RA may have sued it for not creating a safe and respectful environment had Folau not been shot? What a joke. If it is that easy to get a payout, CM would identify as such to ride that gravy train. How weak is the board to fold to this dross?

Did RA do anything when Pocock was arrested for chaining himself to an excavator for 10 hours at the Maules Creek mine? He was charged with “trespass, remaining on enclosed land without lawful excuse and hindering the working of mining equipment.” Raelene Castle wasn’t CEO at the time but Cameron Clyne, Paul McLean and Ann Sherry were and still are board members. Where is the balance in sanctions handed out? Wasn’t there a risk the climate skeptics inside RA might sue for the lack of a respectful environment?

Clyne also mentioned there was a risk of state and federal funding cuts if this wasn’t dealt with. In 2018, these grants totaled $3.5m out of total revenues of $119m. Less than 3%.

Once again if RA was run for the fans it would stand a far higher chance of not needing to fear its own shadow.

Alinta Energy sponsors Cricket Australia post the cheating scandal with the cheats still representing their country. Is cheating any better or worse than tweeting passages paraphrasing the Bible? The point is sponsors took advantage.

Here’s a suggestion. Put Folau back, sack Cheika based solely on (lack of) performance, drop Hooper, Foley and all the other publicly woke players to the bench, replace the board, CEO and chairman, call Qantas’ bluff and watch the fans flood back. A sponsor that is presented with an opportunity to back the team at its nadir will reap the benefits like Alinta.

If private health funds want to gain new customers…

If private health funds in Australia want to gain a lot of new business and waive some waiting periods for long term customers of HCF, they’ll stampede to their door. Strike while their competitor gets woke.

HCF joins the list of brainless corporates having to come out and show it doesn’t support the actions of Israel Folau’s wife, Maria in standing by her husband. The irony is she hasn’t said anything. Shame on her for trying to defend the couple’s livelihood.

HCF, sponsors of the Australian Netball series, said, “We appreciate the complexities of the Folau matter and acknowledge that views do differ in the community, however, we do not support Maria Folau’s stance on this matter.

If Maria Folau said she believed in mass murder, would Australians need direction from HCF to know the right path? Since when did corporates feel compelled to enforce moral and ethical codes on customers?

Corporate Australia is becoming a laughing stock. Does HCF honestly believe its customers are going to quit in droves if they don’t say something woke? It’s no better than ANZ preaching moral codes, although the bank comes from a greater history of scandal, as the Hayne Banking Royal Commission revealed.

Tell you what, if Medibank Private, nib or another private health insurer offer to waive the waiting periods, CM will happily transfer the $400/month to them from HCF.

HCF, not interested in your moral preening.

NSW Chair pleads for a truce

Could it be that those who are fed up with political correctness have proved their pockets are way deeper than Rugby Australia (RA) ever imagined? For the Rugby NSW Chair Roger Davis to pipe up that, “the game is paying too high a price for RA to be proved right in this matter” speaks volumes. Sounds like fear that RA might lose.

The ACL suspended the Folau fund raising as it went over $2m in two days. Now he can comfortably fund an excellent team of silks to prosecute the case against RA. Plenty more ammunition behind that one imagines too. RA is outgunned unless Qantas intends to deploy shareholder capital?!?

Once again, this has moved way beyond Folau’s contractual dispute. People are fed up with the lecturing from the left. Regardless of whether one agrees with what he said or not or the GoFundMe stunt, the people have spoken with their wallets. They don’t want to have corporates tell them how or what to say or behavioral awareness officers at the games marshaling their stress outlets.

Rugby Australia’s problems started way before Folau’s tweets. The attendance and performance of the Wallabies stems from the incompetence at the top. The numbers are abysmal. The identity politics obsessed board which keeps a coach despite the worst track record in the team’s history. Australia will be lucky to make the play offs.

As David rightly said, It’s not about rights or wrongs now, it’s about pragmatics. I don’t think rugby should be defining freedom of religion rights or freedom of expression rights. I don’t think it’s our job,

Exactly. Which is why $2m was lined up to let RA know it should drop all of the gender and identity political garbage period and focus on who pays the bills – the fans.