The CEO of next year’s Rugby League World Cup has surprisingly resigned amid reports he had fallen out with Penrith CEO Corey Payne over the tournament’s NSW snub.
Michael Brown stepped down on Friday as 2017 Rugby League World Cup boss and also resigned as NRL chief commercial officer, blaming stress.
Brown – who was appointed in June – made the shock call just three days after he unveiled the tournament draw in Brisbane.
“The task of taking on two such senior roles – especially away from my home town of Melbourne – has been particularly stressful,” he said in a statement.
However, Brown reportedly quit after a stoush with Payne over the tournament’s schedule.
News Corp Australia reports Brown “left a scathing text message” on Payne’s phone following the scheduling criticism from the Panthers’ CEO.
NSW host just two of the tournament’s 28 games – two of minnows Lebanon’s pool matches at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
Brown said at the tournament draw launch that the NSW government failed to come to the party financially and so the state was largely overlooked in the schedule.
Even AFL-mad Darwin will host a quarter-final after NSW government disinterest.
But Payne slammed organisers over the World Cup draw in an open letter to Panthers members on Tuesday night on the NRL club’s website.
He said it was mind boggling that organisers did not allocate a World Cup game in western Sydney.
“I am extremely disappointed that we have been snubbed by the NRL for ‘commercial reasons’,” he wrote.
“It is a real shame that the NRL cannot see the opportunity out here in the west.
“If they cannot make World Cup games commercially viable in western Sydney, then I must be living on the moon – western Sydney deserves better.”
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and World Cup chairman George Peponis said they understood Brown’s position and accepted his resignation.
RLWC chief operating officer Maria Sykes will be interim CEO.
The NRL’s head of commercial Andrew Abdo will report directly to Greenberg.
“The World Cup preparations are well advanced and I am very confident the foundations are in place for a successful tournament,” Brown said.
“The NRL has also put together a strong commercial team to take the game forward so this is an appropriate time to step aside.”