CEO carries the public burden of key decisions whether right or wrong.

You will have been living under a rock not to have heard about the Rugby Australia – Israel Folau unfair dismissal claim. It is not my place to comment on what really went down at RA Headquarters, so I’ll leave that to the misinformed.

My interest has been focussed not on what decisions have been made, but rather on the chain of command from the Board to the CEO in making these decisions. Given the democratic nature of decision making within sporting organisations, it would be rare for a CEO not to have first consulted the Board on matters of such material significance as well as receiving specific instructions on the desired resolution. In this instance it is simply beyond belief the Rugby Australia CEO acted without the prior knowledge and support of the Rugby Australia Board. According to the misinformed, Raelene Castle made a captain’s call on terminating Israel Folau’s employment contract in the first place and caved in by agreeing to the out of court settlement. On a roll and in the true spirit of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, the misinformed decided she should be singularly accountable for not sacking Michael Cheika as Wallabies Coach in 2018, she appointment Dave Rennie as his replacement without consulting anyone else in Rugby Australia and well, let’s face it, she may as well be responsible for the Wallabies performance at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Sorry, just doesn’t pass the pub test.

The CEO of an any organisation does have the responsibility to explain and if needed, defend, the decisions made by the Board. Equally, the CEOs position on some matters may not always align to that of the Board, but as an employee they have the role of selling the message and presenting a unified front. That does not absolve the employer from its obligations to protect the welfare of its employee. On the contrary. That’s why it was refreshing to see Cameron Clyne, Rugby Australia Chairman, step up over the weekend firstly to refute the nonsense being aired by 2GB and secondly, to defend his CEO.

If you aren’t across this story some bloke called Ben Fordham, who last time I looked was the host of Australian Ninja Warrior, now works for a local Sydney radio station called 2GB. Ben was interviewing another bloke, called James Willis, previously a reporter on the Alan Jones program and now a Producer at 2GB. I have it on reliable advice Alan Jones is a former Formula One World Champion, has an opinion on everything and under no circumstances should you ever have the audacity to question his opinion. Wait. Maybe I’ve got my facts wrong on this? Yes, I humbly apologise. It appears it is indeed a different Alan Jones.

So I say good on you Cameron Clyne for doing the right thing by your employee. I hope you are absolutely true to your word, but don’t expect an apology from the misinformed.

Sportspeople Recruitment has had the pleasure of filling over 200 CEO roles across the Australia & New Zealand sport management sector. Along with the thousands of other support roles we’ve recruited these past 24 years, all these sport management professionals share a passion and commitment to building sustainable, successful sports for the enjoyment and benefit of their members, fans and stakeholders. Fair play is a central ethos in sport, so it irks me fair play has not been central to the bulk of commentary relating to the Rugby Australia – Israel Folau matter.

That’s why I was pleased to have read Wayne Smith’s article in The Australian “Raelene Castle key to cut-price $3m deal for exiled Israel Folau” Smith speculates once again as to the settlement amount, but overall provides balanced journalism.

Smith says, “Sporting administrators who rort the salary cap or condone drug cheating deserve all the flak they get in the media. But in 49 years of covering sport, I have never seen any official treated as viciously as Castle, merely for doing her job. It is not her fault Australia have not won the Bledisloe Cup since 2002. It was not her fault that Folau, on his second chance, again said homosexuals were doomed to hell unless they repented. In a way she has blazed a trail every CEO needs to study, even if the lesson many took away was to do the exact opposite. Remember though, no CEO before her had ever found themselves in such a predicament. Criticise her if the Wallabies continue to fail. Criticise her if the Super Rugby franchises struggle to stay afloat. Criticise her if the green shoots turn brown. But leave the personal attacks out of it. That’s nothing but bullying, pure and simple.”

Can’t add much more to that.

Robert McMurtrie, People Recruitment Group

First published December 2019

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