WOLLOGONG, AUSTRALIA – Who would want to be a sports administrator? Honestly, between dealing with the various interest groups and their respective egos, having to navigate your way through an impending financial apocalypse would drive any sane individual to the drink.
Well, that’s the situation Australia Rugby Union CEO Bill “Pulveriser” Pulver has inherited in his first 12 months in charge of the Wallabies and one of the world’s premier Rugby unions.
Gone are the golden day’s where Rugby and the were the hottest ticket in down and everything they touched seemed to translate into success on and off the field. Several years of indifferent performances on the field at both the international and provincial level, with the exception of the rare flash of brilliance, and the continuing battles endured by a small number of high profile player off the field has seen the once boisterous ARU become a somewhat over bloated and direction-less vessel severely lacking leadership and vision.
It’s not all Apocalypse Now… But if allowed to continue, it certainly would end in tears and bankruptcy. In the 2011 and 2012 financial year, the ARU lost a combined $19 million, more than double the USAR’s total budget in that same timeframe; a figure that anyone in business would recognise as a unsustainable trend that needs to be addressed immediately.
Only six weeks back, Pulver called in the major stakeholders of the game – including the local Sydney clubs – and delivered a dire warning with a terrifying time frame. If things continue down the track it had been for the past decade, then Rugby would find itself in a precarious position in a market that possesses a level of competition for such a relatively small population, unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Pulver has been a busy boy in the past six months and has had some significant victories. He’s accustomed to having to make the hard decisions in his successful business career and more than colourful personal life.
-He’s cut a great deal of the top-heavy nature to the ARU administration, which was an element of the organisation that consumed an alarming high percentage of organisations annual expenses.
-He’s moved the entire organisation to one floor in Rugby Central.
-He has been actively negotiating a Collective Bargaining Agreement with player’s association, the first in a decade and designed to arrest the hemorrhaging and move the organisation to a lean and efficient sports business.
– He’s done this while initiating and addressing the desperately needed infrastructure and development pathways that to be frank, should have been initiated 15 years ago – when everything was paved with gold.
Pulver’s pulverizing has not been without controversy in Rugby circles. It’s drawn the praise of some and the scorn of others. Yet, while there’s still a long way to go and things can still go wrong, the apocalypse isn’t here just yet and if William Pulver can manage to steer everyone in the right direction, this may one day be seen as a watershed moment for the game.
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