Frustrated Brisbane CEO Paul White has called for stronger leadership from the league in the wake of NRL boss Dave Smith’s resignation.
White said it was time for powerbrokers to own the agenda, claiming they had mishandled communication on NRL expansion.
“Dave did a great job in difficult circumstances but I think now is the time to end all posturing and our vision of who put air in the football and just understand our roles,” White said on Wednesday.
“We can all lead collectively but we need someone to say this is the agenda.”
White cited expansion as an example.
“I got asked about expansion at my first press conference in 2011,” White said.
“What has happened between January 2011 and today is nothing … (but) everyone keeps talking about it.
“If there has been a mishandled communication that the game has undertaken, then it’s that one overwhelmingly.
“If we are going to do it, the game has to be in charge of communication.
“Expansion will happen when the game is ready for it … but we have to own the agenda.”
Bids from the north Brisbane-based Bombers, the Ipswich-Logan western corridor and Redcliffe are considered favourites to snap up the next expansion berths.
But White shot down the possibility of Smith’s November 30 departure fast-tracking expansion.
“Fourteen of our sides are currently not solvent,” White said.
“Can we afford to have two more teams in at the moment? – I can say categorically ‘no’.”
White also considered expansion’s impact on the NRL’s TV appeal – a hot topic amid the league’s ongoing broadcast deal talks.
“In my view, the value of the game as a TV product is not going to diminish with the passage of time. I think it will be enhanced,” he said.
“(But) it’s the quality of minutes – not the longevity.
“If expansion means more minutes but lesser quality, you tell me what they will pay for that.”
White wanted the league to provide a “three to five year” funding plan for clubs, confirming the collective debt of all 16 clubs was more than $30 million – or an average of $1.8 million per side.
Club chairmen are reportedly seeking a meeting with interim NRL boss John Grant this week over a $137 million funding demand.
White could understand the focus turning to Smith’s replacement but hoped it didn’t distract powerbrokers from what he believed were their priorities – finalising the TV broadcast deal, aiding grass roots football and consulting the players’ union more.
“I think we need to take three deep breaths and understand there are a lot of things that are outstanding in the game that should be the major priority,” White said after confirming a four-year Broncos jersey sponsorship deal with National Storage.