David Gallop Stands Down As NRL CEO – How Will He Be Remembered?

In what is being described as a “mutual decision” made in conjunction with the Australian Rugby League Commission, David Gallop has decided to stand down as the CEO of the NRL only 4 months into a four year contract.

I think it was time.

David Gallop took over, reluctantly, as the NRL CEO in 2002 having formerly been a corporate lawyer for News Limited. It was at a time where the game basically had no one it could look to for leadership. When he was appointed most people thought he would be in the role for a short time until someone else stepped into the role. It’s funny how things pan out…

Gallop was the CEO of the elite NRL club competition and nothing more. He answered to a partnership board that was a joint venture between News Limited and the old Australian Rugby League, both of which had their own agendas.

He stepped into the role at a time when the game was trying to rebuild itself after the Super League War. Tensions were still running high, the game was terribly under funded and rationalization was the buzz word of the moment.

One thing people forget is that, his role under the structure of the games administration at the time, Gallop wasn’t in the position to make any sweeping changes at all. Major changes where to come down from the NRL Partnership between News Limited and the old ARL, and Gallop’s job was to run the NRL on a day to day basis and make any changes the NRL Partnership told him to implement.

Being a corporate lawyer, Gallop was the right man at the right time. He brought in a lot of procedural structures that the game now takes for granted, all of which were put together with a legal backing so they could stand up in court if needed.

Over the years, Gallop faced some of the greatest scandals in the games history.

The Bulldogs salary cap scandal of 2002 which saw the club stripped of 37 competition points was so far reaching that the ICAC became involved. To think that that would be only the second biggest salary cap scandal he would face says a lot about how difficult his job was over the last ten years.

Gallop had to manage alleged sexual assault scandals, drug scandals, betting scandals….and that was all before he had to deal with what was actually happening on the field!

David Gallop drew a line in the sand every single time. He set a standard and stuck to it. It was a thankless job that saw him attacked on a daily basis in the media, and he never faltered. He never took a backward step. he always did what he felt was the right thing for the game, and for that, Rugby League fans should thank him.

One of the things David Gallop always held up as his legacy was that the NRL would be a competition in which, on any given weekend, a fan of any club in the competition could go to a game and know they had a chance of winning. Parity, on the field, was his baby, and he decided the salary cap against numerous attacks, even up until his last week in charge.

Under David Gallops leadership, a game that was on the back foot and looking to rebuild become one that was in a position of great strength. We now have record television ratings, a 16 team competition that is in a position to look at true national expansion, and with a billion dollar television rights deal just around the corner, it is hard to argue that David Gallop wasn’t anything but a very capable CEO.

He held the toughest job in Australian sport, not by a little way, but by a long way. The type of job that ages you in dog years. On any given morning he must have woken up and hoped to god that he didn’t have another scandal to deal with that would be national headlines for the next few weeks.

He was always a great supporter of the Independent Commission and without his support, it probably would never have happened. When the Australian Rugby League Commission was finally formed, he would have known that it relegated his job to a certain extent, and yet he still pushed for it to happen.

John Grant stepped in as the games ultimate leader, and at the end of the day, David Gallop’s role didn’t fit in with the new structure that the game now had. To John Grants credit, he has stepped up and taken the leadership role on board as completely as you could ever have hoped for. He will live and die by his results, and with David Gallop now gone, Grant will be the games unmistakable figurehead.

In my opinion David Gallop is the best administrator the game of Rugby League has ever had. The sporting competition he took over is in a position of immense strength today, and that is something he played a major part in.

I think one day we will look back and realize that, we didn’t really appreciate how good Gallop was until he was gone.

I wish David Gallop all the best. I have no doubt he will be a success in what ever career path he chooses to head down.

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