In 2015, rugby and RUPA celebrate 20 seasons of professionalism. A significant milestone and one that we will certainly take more time to reflect on later in the year. Personally, I have been fortunate enough to experience the last four years of that adventure and, in that time, I have always valued and respected the role that RUPA plays in representing and advising Australia’s professional rugby players.
I am privileged to take on the role of CEO and will certainly look to continue to build on the robust foundations – strategically and financially – that RUPA has been able to establish, particularly under Greg Harris’ leadership.
Speaking of Greg, there are certainly some rather large shoes to be filled and especially as the game embarks on a year which is arguably its most significant since it went professional in 1995. Greg’s imprint on RUPA will long remain and his astute appointment as CEO of the Waratahs will ensure that the game continues to benefit from his insight, acumen and… at the end of the day… his experiences from a life in football. On behalf of RUPA, we once again would like to wish him well in these endeavours.
Over the last few years RUPA has positioned itself as a genuinely respected and valued stakeholder within the Australian Rugby landscape. Continually advocating for the improvement of the conditions, entitlements and welfare of Australia’s professional rugby players has and always will be our principal priority. However, RUPA’s most significant achievements in recent times have come from its agitation of issues at the macro level.
We’re proud of the work that RUPA undertook in challenging the game’s talented athlete pathways in late 2012 and our push for the inception of a new semi-professional level of competition to assist in player’s development. Two years later, RUPA played a critical role in the inception of the National Rugby Championship (NRC) made possible by the players taking a mature and responsible approach to accept much more rugby, with minimal additional payment opportunities.
More recently, RUPA in conjunction with leading consultant group Global Media & Sports authored a report: “Strategic Review of Super Rugby Competition Models”. The report objectively looked at and challenged the status quo of the SANZAR and Super Rugby competition formats, questioning the most optimal competition structures for Australian Rugby to be competitively and commercially viable in the most cluttered sporting marketplace in the world. The report concluded that if we were to continue in partnership with SANZAR – and even on to the then mooted 18 team Super Rugby competition which will commence in 2016 – a substantial uplift in the game’s broadcast revenues to support this expansion is required. The initial signs are that the game will benefit from such an uplift and once signed, sealed and delivered, credit should be given to ARU CEO Bill Pulver and his team for driving this outcome.
Now, as we look into the crystal ball for what the future holds for Australian Rugby, uncertainty remains over the game’s commercial tussle with the other football codes for the hearts and minds of fans and the outcome of this year’s Rugby World Cup. But what we do know is that the biggest pieces of the Australian Rugby puzzle – the structure and timing of various competitions – look to be settled for the short-term. And once the ink dries on the new broadcast deal RUPA and the game’s administrators can start to take action with greater certainty over the environment we’ll be operating within.
And the impact of all that?
Whilst RUPA will always be forthright and continue to lobby for changes that we believe are in the best interests of the health and growth of the game, this short-term stability gives us the capacity to take stock of our own operations and reflect on what we can do better to assist our membership. It’s a chance to turn our attentions to how we can best protect players’ interests, promote the players and the game, and best prepare players for their lives after rugby. And that’s a challenge that I, and the entire RUPA team are very much looking forward to.