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Dave Smith to leave NRL after three years as Chief Executive

Dave Smith to leave NRL after three years as Chief Executive
October 20, 2015

Dave Smith is to end his role as NRL Chief Executive when his contract expires on 30th November 2015.

Smith, who reportedly did not seek to have his contract extended, said that with another highly successful NRL season just finished and the ARLC financial year end approaching, it was the ideal time for the game to plan for the next phase of its future.

In a statement released by the NRL, Smith explained “rugby league is a fantastic game with wonderful people involved at every level and it has been a privilege to lead the game

“Together with the ARLC (Australian Rugby League Commission), the 16 NRL Clubs and the State Leagues we have made significant progress in modernising Rugby League and, having assessed our progress and year end position, it is clear we now have the foundations in place for long term success.

Smith, a former banking executive from Wales, took over the NRL’s top role in February 2013 after it was vacated by David Gallop.

Smith's exit has reportedly been linked to a breakdown in negotiations over the NRL's lucrative broadcast rights and also a rocky relationship with NRL clubs.

Earlier this year he came under fire for his handling of broadcast negotiations when he signed a new free-to-air TV deal with Channel Nine before an agreement was reached over the pay-TV rights.

Commenting on his achievements, Smith added “we have secured the biggest free to air broadcast deal in our history, $1.6 billion for investment in rugby league stadiums and a financial platform that includes a sustainability fund of $50 million and a surplus of $100 milion that is progressively being invested back into the game, and a 48% increase in non-broadcast revenue.

“We are consistently enjoying record breaking Origin and Finals Series and we have grown significantly with more than 300,000 fans converted into club members; new pathways for elite, recreational and female players; the biggest digital profile and reach of any sport in Australia; and we’ve introduced some new products such as the Auckland Nines and World Cup Challenge.

“Importantly we’ve also set new, higher standards when it comes to our brand, reputation and integrity which will solidify our growth. The game is now safer, more in line with community expectations and just as exciting for fans.

“I’ve been a change agent for most of my career and the time has come for me to handover to a new leader to consolidate these gains and I finish with pride in the game’s achievements.

“I’d like to thank John Grant and the Commissioners for their first class leadership and ongoing support, as well as the support I’ve received from the NRL Clubs and State Leagues. “And I want to thank, in particular, all the NRL staff who work so hard to make this game so successful.”

Acknowledging Smith’s contribution, ARLC Chairman John Grant said the progress the game has made in three years has been very significant and they are tracking strongly against almost all the targets in the game’s strategic plan.

Grant stated “Dave has been a wonderful leader and change agent for our game.

“We all understood that it would take between three to five years to effect meaningful change and to build the platforms from which the game could continue to grow and succeed.

“We are now financially strong, organisationally sound and have strengthened the game’s connection to the fans.

“On behalf of the whole Rugby League community I want to thank Dave for his tenacity, hard work and the momentum he has started to help our game become the most entertaining, engaging and respected sport.”

While Grant will take over Smith's responsibilities in an interim role, the Commission is set to launch an international search to find Smith's successor ahead of the 2016 season.





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