Rugby league is on the cusp of a bold new era with the game’s co-owners finally clearing the way for the establishment of an independent commission.
After months of negotiations, the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and News Limited on Tuesday agreed to terms on the constitution for the new governing body.
The resolution effectively ends News Limited’s involvement in the game, following their bid to take the game into the professional era with the Super League war in 1995.
Peace was reached in 1998 when News and the ARL agreed to share control of the NRL, but Tuesday’s landmark development means control will now be placed in the hands of eight commissioners to be selected by the two departing bodies.
“It’s an historic day, well received by all people at the meeting,” ARL chairman John Chalk said of Tuesday’s talks.
“I think it will bring us into a new era of rugby league. It’s going to be interesting times for us with all the competition we have from rival codes of football … I believe it brings us to a new era.
” … people have been waiting so long for the finals stages of this to be completed.
“It’s a quiet revolution happening within the game and I think it’s going to be great for the sport of rugby league.”
The establishment of the independent commission had initially been slated for November 2010, but repeated delays over the terms of the constitution continued to delay the process.
An ARL board meeting was supposed to rubber-stamp the deal, but amendments sought by the Queensland Rugby League had to be signed off on by the News Limited officials on Tuesday.
QRL independents director Terry Mackenroth, who along with Bruce Hatcher represented the northerners at Tuesday’s meeting, said his organisation with satisfied with the end result.
“We’re very happy, we’ve always believed we could get a resolution and that’s been reached,” Mackenroth said.
“It will take a while yet before we get the commission into place, there’s still a few more hurdles but the constitution has been agreed to and that’s the main thing.”
News Limited chief operating officer Peter Macourt admitted he could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel and an opportunity for the game to move forward.
“We’ve got to finish off the drafting of the agreement but I think we’re there,” Macourt said of the independent commission.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to move all the agreements across to the new entity.
“I think it will be a very good outcome for the game.”
Just when the commission will be up and running remains up in the air.
An independent consultant firm has been appointed to come up with a shortlist of candidates to be presented to News Limited and the ARL.
Asked about the possibility of the commission being in place by the 2011 season kick-off on March 11, Chalk said: “I would certainly hope so.”
However Macourt was a little less definitive.
“I’m not going to put a date on it,” Macourt said.
“Everyone else puts dates on it and we keep missing the date. We’ll work as hard and fast as we can to get it in place.”