In December 2019, the constitutional reform process for both the Parramatta Eels and the Parramatta Leagues Club was successfully completed when over 90 percent of voting members supported PLC reforms.
It should have been achieved within a reasonable time frame, but there were those who opposed change. They opposed merit selection of the new PLC board. With constitutional change requiring at least 75% “yes” votes, such opposition by so few delayed governance reform for years.
Now, nearly one year down the track, Dean Ritchie of the Daily Telegraph is reporting that a “powerful Parramatta lobby group” threatening to “overthrow the board” has earned an audience with senior Eels management next week in an attempt to have Paul Green, Shane Flanagan and Tim Sheens named on Arthur’s coaching staff.
Who is this powerful lobby group?
In my opinion, reaching for the Sixties thesaurus, “powerful lobby group” translates as faction.
This sort of lobbying and their demands shouldn’t get any air time from us. But after yesterday’s media coverage, my phone rang off the hook. There was no shortage of people wanting to express their opinion to me. Not because they agreed with the lobbyists, but rather there were concerns as to why this group could be given any credence. The flood of such responses resulting from major media coverage meant it became more difficult to hit the old ignore button.
In gaining this exposure, the lobbyists have, to my mind, exemplified what factions stand for – a return to the bad old days of dragging our club into the media in attempted power plays.
Described by Ritchie as comprising local businessmen, corporate partners, politicians and sponsors, they are also said to remain “unsettled and unfulfilled”.
Don’t worry, those of us who attended the multitude of PLC General Meetings required to achieve reform saw plenty of “unsettled and unfulfilled” behaviour.
Now Dean Ritchie provides details on the behaviour of these lobbyists’, “the 20-member group will virtually demand a premiership win in 2021 or start agitating to overthrow the board.”
Yes, threats of destabilisation!
Of course the new constitution of the Parramatta Leagues Club doesn’t allow any “overthrow”. There are now triennial elections. The reality is that such threats are completely impotent and a reminder of why the club had to move forward from the days when a faction actually could overthrow the board.
It’s not that I don’t have my concerns. In fact, I’m irate.
When these groups take their campaigns to the media, they are damaging our Eels brand. The club has been heading into a bright future via good governance, and the stability and professionalism that such governance brings.
Reminders of factionalism, no matter how impotent their threats, only serve to undermine perceptions of the Eels with, at the very least, potential commercial consequences.
How narrow minded are such actions? How self centred?
Here’s the answer to those questions:
“The group wants to work with directors and will make it clear they expect results.”
So this group, without merit selection or without membership vote, expect that they have the right to work with directors and set the agenda for what results are to be achieved?
And central to their platform – the appointment of Shane Flanagan in an assistant coach capacity.
Let’s just quickly examine how that would benefit the Eels.
This very season, 2020, Flanagan “assisted” the Dragons to 12th place on the ladder with less than half the victories of the Eels. And he’s an assistant coach because he was deregistered by the NRL in 2019 and is not currently allowed to be a head coach.
Why was he deregistered?
Because he failed to comply with the conditions of his 2014 suspension for his role in the Sharks supplements saga. Yes, this is a coach who has been both suspended and deregistered. Brilliant suggestion.
But there’s more. Besides not being allowed to coach during every year of his tenure at the Sharks, his club was found guilty of committing significant salary cap breaches from 2013 to 2018.
Of course, within that period was the Premiership year of 2016, which Paul Kent put into context by declaring the Sharks were “systematically cheating” and that “when the club won the competition they were under the salary cap on the day”. On the day!
For those who forgot about the roster that such breaches allowed them to assemble, the Sharks grand final starting 13 included 9 Origin stars, and a future Origin player.
And besides his 13th and 14th placed finishes, and that tainted Premiership season, Flanagan’s record in coaching the Sharks to five other finals appearances includes four exits in either the first or second week of the finals. Only a 7th placed finish in 2012 occurred outside of the cap cheating period.
The Eels currently undertake extensive due diligence in the recruitment of players. One cannot imagine that a coach with Flanagan’s record would be seen as a beneficial addition to our organisation.
But I do have one other concern.
As Dean Ritchie also reported, “It is understood around five members of the group will meet Eels chief executive Jim Sarantinos, club chairman Sean McElduff, and possibly general manager of football Mark O’Neill, on Thursday.”
This “lobby group”, this faction, do not deserve the right to an audience with Parramatta Eels executives. If the club firstly agreed to a meeting in the interests of club unity and transparency, then this group have surely forfeited any meeting with such destabilising media bleating.
In fact, were this meeting to now unfold, it would be insulting to all of the individual PLC members who railed against factionalism through far too many general meetings.
Never forget, it was via the members, not any factions, that club governance reform was successful. Factions no longer hold any political influence over our Parramatta Eels.