David Smith has resigned from his position as NRL CEO after three years. An official announcement will be made later on today.
The loss of Smith from the NRL’s administration is a blow to the game.
Smith joined the NRL three years ago and before he had even officially started the job he was dealing withe the ASADA scandal. He took a lot of criticism at the time for the way the NRL handled things, but has been vindicated over the long term with the NRL being praised for the open way it worked with ASADA with the AFL continues to go from one disaster to the next over the matter.
Smith was involved in negotiating the sports first completely independent broadcasting deal in well over a decade. This deal allowed Rugby League to stand on its own two feet for the first time in just as long. It allowed the game to build a war chest once again and plan for the future.
Smith oversaw the long overdue link up with Touch Football Australia, and pushed along many off field decisions that didn’t get headlines but that saw funding boosted to community programs. He was also a key player in the push for stadium upgrades for clubs and was set on the game finally having a long term strategy for the way teams will gain funding in NSW for the dozens of stadiums that are currently in use.
While this was all going on Smith had to deal with at least half a dozen NRL clubs who were so poorly run that they needed loans, handouts, or in some cases taken over completely. At the same time many of the people running these same clubs questioned Smith’s ability to run the game…
David Smith got tagged by his critics as an outsider. As someone who didn’t know the game well enough to do a good job as CEO. At the end of the day, Smith’s role as an outsider with a fresh perspective was his strength. His lack of political ties in the game, the fact he played no favourites, and that he looked at building the game as a whole rather than just handing money to poorly run clubs is the reason Smith is a loss to the game after his decision to stand down.
ARL Chairman John Grant will take over the interim role as CEO until a replacement is found.
Hopefully the next NRL CEO is just as qualified as Smith, has no ties within the game, and can see that we need aq leader with an eye on the future. Not someone to just throw money into the burning pit that are the poorly run clubs we have in out game.