‘Bold step’: NSW Rugby confirms RA alignment in bid to rid game of ‘conflicts and self interest’

NSW Rugby Union have become the first member union to commit to Rugby Australia’s plan to align the sport.

The agreement, announced on Tuesday, will see responsibility for the operations of the Waratahs passed to RA from January 1.

The alignment issue is a hot topic in Australian rugby with some key stakeholders unconvinced by Rugby Australia’s plans.

Under the agreement RA will take responsibility for the Waratahs’ high-performance operations, assets, liabilities, and commercial arrangements. In a joint statement, it was announced that all Waratahs employees would continue in their current roles.

NSW Rugby Union will continue to take full responsibility for the community game, and for delivering programs to grow participation in, and engagement with Rugby around the state, working in collaboration with the Waratahs and Rugby Australia,” RA said in a statement.

“This step will result in the Waratahs’ professional Rugby operations across high-performance (players, coaches, support staff) and commercial operations (sponsorship, marketing, membership, ticketing) being fully integrated and aligned with RA’s high-performance and commercial operations.

“The Waratahs will be governed by a separate board comprising representatives nominated by NSW Rugby Union and RA.”

In the statement, NSW RU CEO Paul Doorn was quoted as saying: “We are taking this bold step because we strongly believe the federated model for professional Rugby in Australia is unsustainable and that meaningful reform is long overdue.

“We are committed to the removal of the inherent conflicts and self-interest that have constrained meaningful progress in the past, and we are committed to the alignment of the high-performance and commercial operations between our club and Rugby Australia.

“I appreciate questions will be asked about the level of trust and confidence in RA’s ability to fully realise the benefits of integration. These are important questions – however our decision reflects a commitment to deal with any such concern ‘inside the tent’, playing an active role in the most collaborative way possible.

“We are not content to sit on the sidelines any longer on this much needed reform, and I hope all Super Rugby clubs will follow our lead as we push forward on an aligned Australian Rugby ecosystem.”

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh said an aligned system was essential for the game’s future in Australia.

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh speaks to the media on October 02, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“We have a plan that we are working on to unite the game – it will take the whole game to rebuild a system that delivers success on and off the field,” he said.

“We have agreement from the five Australian Super Rugby clubs that we need to be pursuing an aligned high-performance system and pathways.

“There may be different models across different clubs, however the Waratahs have been very clear that they see great benefits in aligning their commercial operations with RA’s, as we look to achieve maximum commercial return and efficiency for the game.

“I firmly believe that this strategic reset is in the best interests of the game – and crucially, it delivers even greater priority to strengthening the community game; ringfencing investment in the community game and allowing state unions to focus entirely on grassroots and participation without the distraction of professional Rugby.

“It will allow the game to develop fully aligned pathways and high-performance structures to deliver lasting success for Australian Super Rugby clubs and our national teams.

“We need to establish a business model that delivers far greater commercial success for all stakeholders in the game – something that we believe a strongly aligned game can deliver.

“I would like to thank Tony Crawford, Paul Doorn and NSW Rugby Union for their collaborative approach to these negotiations, and the constructive discussions that have been central to the process.”

Waugh and Doorn will host a media conference later Tuesday.

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