State unions call for resignation of Rugby Australia Chair

Fri, Nov 17, 2023, 10:00 AM
Reds Media Unit
by Reds Media Unit

Six Rugby Australia member unions, including Queensland, ACT and West Australia, have today called on Rugby Australia Chair Hamish McLennan to immediately resign from the Board.

The unions have sent a letter (below) to Mr McLennan and the Board of Rugby Australia, signed by all six of their chairs, requesting the resignation. The member unions will request an Extraordinary General Meeting of Rugby Australia to pass a resolution to remove Mr McLennan from the Board should he not resign.

The unions constitute a majority of the Constitutional Members of Rugby Australia, and also include the South Australian, Tasmanian and the Northern Territory rugby unions.

The signatories to the letter did not approach the NSW and Victorian Rugby Unions due to their ongoing negotiations with Rugby Australia. RUPA was not approached to avoid placing players in a compromised position.

The member unions had originally given Mr McLennan until 5pm Saturday, November 18 to consider his position. His immediate public statements to the media are a clear indication of his intent. Therefore the member unions believe it is in the best interests of transparency to fully articulate the reasons for their stance.

The letter to the Board states:

We, the undersigned Member Unions of Rugby Australia, are calling for the Chair, Hamish McLennan, to immediately resign as Chair and Director of Rugby Australia.

We do not believe Mr McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game.

We no longer have any trust or faith in his leadership, or the direction in which he is taking rugby in Australia.

Additionally, we believe Mr McLennan has been acting outside his role as a director, exerting an undue influence on the operations and executives of Rugby Australia.

This is not the best practice governance that we expect from leaders in our game.

Should Mr McLennan not resign, this letter serves as notice for Directors to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting at the earliest possible opportunity, as per clause 4.1c of the Rugby Australia Constitution.

This request is not about opposition to Rugby Australia’s centralisation proposals– we remain committed to supporting high-performance alignment.

This is instead a deep concern about the performance of Mr McLennan as Chair, and the damage done to the game by his performance.

We have not made this decision lightly.

After deliberation and discussion, we decided we must take action in order to protect the reputation and future of our game.

Governance and high-performance sport are about judgement – good judgement.

During the past 12 months Mr McLennan has made a series of calls that have harmed the standing and reputation of our game and led us to question his judgement and his understanding of high-performance sport.

His decisions and “captain’s picks” have directly led to an historic failure at the men’s Rugby World Cup and a Wallabies international ranking at an historic low, with all of the regrettable and public fallout that came with it.

In addition to this, Mr McLennan’s use of player poaching to threaten other sports and boost our own stocks and performance alienates us from having collaborative conversations with the other major sports to improve participation across the Australian community.

It also disenfranchises our budding professional female and community rugby participants, by only focusing on elite men’s participation, which is a small component of our national game.

There has been much discussion about required changes within rugby to improve the overall performance of our national teams.

The member unions are not shying away from this change and can see the long-term benefits that national high-performance alignment can bring.

But this will only happen if we have trust and faith in the leadership at Rugby Australia, and there is a clear strategy that outlines the process to achieve this.

To date, despite months of media speculation and commentary from Rugby Australia, the Board and executive have brought us no substantive strategy or any outline of how centralisation would work.

Over coming years there are a range of opportunities off which our game can prosper, including the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the Mens’ Rugby World Cup in 2027 and the Womens’ Rugby World Cup in 2029.

In order for us to seize these opportunities, our game must focus on growing our participation base in community, schools and women’s rugby.

This will require trust and collaboration across the game.

If we don’t make the necessary changes to the leadership of our game now, these opportunities will be lost and our game will continue to flounder for decades to come.

We are supportive of an independent recruitment process for a new Chair, one that involves consultation with all Constitutional Members.

Quotes attributable to the co-signatories:

Queensland Rugby Chair Brett Clark: “We as member unions of Australian Rugby have a duty to protect the reputation of our game.  Some of the leadership decisions that have been made over the past few years demonstrate the current Chair is not the right cultural fit for how we want our game to be represented in our country and globally.  That is why we are asking Hamish to stand down from the Chair role, as we believe it’s in the best interests of our game.”

ACT Rugby Chair Matt Nobbs: “It’s obvious that if we are to regain the respect, trust and confidence of the international and national Rugby communities’ as well as the wider Australian public, we need renewed leadership. Hamish has done a number of positive things for Australian rugby but, on balance, it’s clear, he is not the right person to take us forward. Trust is at the heart of any change and for ACT Rugby to work with Rugby Australia, we need to focus on rebuilding a trusting relationship, which won’t happen under the current Chair."

WA Rugby Chair John Edwards: “We have had concerns over the fiscal management of the governing body for some time and when we get to a place where the Chair of Rugby Australia is now threatening his own members in the media, then something needs to give.  We have lost confidence in his ability to lead that the game and it is clearly evident through a series of recent and historical decisions that he is not the right person for the job anymore.  We are asking Hamish to stand down now for the good of our game.”

Brett Smith, SA Rugby Chair: “While SA rugby is a small player in the broader Australian rugby ecosystem, if we don’t fix the leadership issues of our game at a national level then local club and community rugby will suffer from these effects., and that is our main priority in SA.  That is why we are supporting the move in asking Hamish to stand down.”

Shaun Killian, Tas Rugby Chair – “Just like young players in other states and territories, our players in Tassie aspire to be Wallabies and Wallaroos to represent their country at the highest level.  But that becomes even further from reality for them if our national leadership is not making decisions about our game with the interests of all in mind.”

Gary Russell, NT Rugby Chair – “The NT prides itself on being a sporting community where people of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes get to participate in competitions designed for their abilities.  Given our smaller population than other states we work collaboratively across all sports offerings to provide experiences for the whole community, but when our national leadership makes decisions that alienate us from other sporting codes, it makes our job in the territory much harder to compete in an already limited pool of players, coaches and officials."

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