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Brumbies should set clubs free, report says

Club rugby in Canberra is being ‘‘suffocated’’ and the ACT Brumbies need to govern the community game and Super Rugby separately to ensure both survive in the future, Michael Crawford says.
The Brumbies have released the findings of an independent review commissioned by the ACT Rugby Union board.
Crawford’s No. 1 recommendation was the Brumbies split their professional entity and community rugby into two separate areas to ensure each runs at maximum efficiency. And while privatising could be an option in the future, the recommendation is for community rugby to retain ownership.
Brumbies chairman Sean Hammond will meet with club representatives over the next month before the board decides on the future direction of the sport in Canberra.
Before any change can be implemented, 75 per cent of stakeholders need to approve the move.
Crawford believes for professional and community rugby to evolve in the capital, the governing of both levels needs to be divided.
Both are currently run by one board and there is no timeframe on when any changes will be made.
‘‘Ultimately community rugby is being suffocated by being bundled together with professional rugby,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘The two need to be aligned and associated, but when you try to run them jointly, all the attention goes to the professional side. The attention goes to the professional side because it can send you broke very quickly, whereas the community side won’t.
‘‘Allowing them to be managed separately allows them to get full attention. I think privatisation isn’t very congenial for the Canberra environment because I think a more community-aligned Brumbies is what people will feel most comfortable with.’’
Crawford presented for 90 minutes to club presidents on Monday night and his report has been distributed to key stakeholders.
The board decided before its annual general meeting last year to get Crawford to review the way the game was run in Canberra.
Hammond said it was the biggest review he had seen in his nine years with the Brumbies.
The horror on-field performances last season triggered the board’s decision to call on Crawford to help the club move into the future.
One of the biggest gripes community clubs have is that they feel too much focus is on the Brumbies and not enough is on the development of the game.
If community rugby is made separate, it will still receive funding from the ARU, the Brumbies and the ACT government. A percentage of revenue from the professional entity would also be injected into community rugby.
But it would have different stakeholders in charge whose sole objective would be to grow rugby in the capital.
‘‘We’ve got limited financial resources and we need to make sure we’re in the best shape for our sport to grow and prosper,’’ Hammond said.
‘‘There’s a recognition and acceptance that if we need to change, we will change.
‘‘There’s a whole range of things we need to look at and shake out, we need to engage the rugby community to make sure they’re comfortable.’’


  • The Brumbies (team and commercial business) managed through a commercial entity separate from ACT and Southern NSW Rugby Union, to which ACT and SNSWRU leases the intellectual property and management rights for the Brumbies, while retaining ownership of those rights.
  •  ACT and SNSWRU be conducted as a volunteer driven organisation, focused on actively managing the health and growth of community rugby in the ACT and Southern NSW.
  •  The licence fee from the new Brumbies organisation is set as a proportion of its revenue, at a level that ensures a substantial increase in resources available to community rugby.
  •  The licensing arrangements also include a share of any increase in the value of net assets of the Brumbies organisation (including net of any capital contribution by other parties).
  •  ACT and SNSWRU decide whether to seek private investors to manage the Brumbies or to establish a Rugby community aligned entity for that purpose.


  • Sustain the financial performance and viability of the Brumbies, despite the relatively weak, in commercial terms, home market;
  • Maintain competitive on-field performances by the Brumbies, despite the Brumbies commercial, and consequent financial, disadvantage; and
  • Maintain a substantial market share in community sport, attracting, serving and retaining players and volunteers.