More to CEOs than playing the game

EVERY time a new person is appointed to the top position of one of our sporting codes, the initial reaction from the media pack is so predictable I want to tear my hair out.

But then I remember (firstly) that there’s not much of that stuff on top of my melon, and (secondly) what would be the point.

But it is an amusing sport of its own to watch, and what makes it even funnier is that it is the same no matter what the sport.

For example, former NRL boss David ‘‘The Reverend’’ Gallop*, recently took over as chief executive officer for the round ball game, variously referred to as soccer or football, depending on your level of fanaticism (for those not sure what this means, it’s just how big a fan you are, not that you are the biggest fanatic on the planet).

Anyway, moving right along, all of the first stories about Gallop as the top soccer man were about how much the game was in his bones. You know, had he played it, did he watch it, that sort of thing. Naturally he was asked about this at his first press conference - how embarrassing.

The poor fellow had no choice but to confess that he was a follower of the game, etc, instead of telling that lot to get a life if not something more robust.

And just today, here’s how one media outlet announced the news that the NRL itself had finally secured a new chief:

‘‘CEO has no history in rugby league, but has played rugby union

Several years’ experience in banking with skills to manage code’s future fund

Is a Welshman and served in the British Army including counter-terrorism unit

Flush with cash from the new broadcast deal, the ARL Commission has appointed departing Lloyds Bank chief executive David Smith as the game’s new CEO.

ARLC chairman John Grant has described Smith as a person who "knows business, who knows how to lead".

Did you notice the first headline? No history in rugby league, but played rugby, blah blah blah. Dear me. Did any of these blokes - sport reporting is still very much a male dominated endeavour I’m afraid - stop to think for a minute about how relevant this point is in appointing someone to such an important position.

What difference would it make, anyway, if David Smith had never executed a shoulder charge or indeed scored a four pointer under the posts. I mean, how would that help him when he has to deal with his first off the field player atrocity?

C’mon, boys, we’re talking about the CEO of an organisation that turns over hundreds of millions every year. Incredible as it may seem, no, it’s not tiddlywinks.

I’d always aspired to end a rant on a positive note, so I’d like to wish Mr Smith and the Reverend Gallop well in their respective challenges. Then again, thinking about it, I may withdraw my wishes to Gallop, because the last time I did that, it was face to face in the lift at NRL headquarters a couple of years ago, and it turned into the worst NRL year for off the field dramas. Sorry about that, David.

 HOW GOOD is Michael Clarke? That surely is the question after his record breaking fourth double ton in Adelaide and inevitable comparisons to Sir Donald Bradman, who may or may not be turning in his grave.

Having only seen the Don batting in bits and pieces of old black and white footage, I think comparisons like that are impossible to make with any degree of accuracy.

Of course Bradman’s stats speak for themselves: a 99.94 average after 52 Tests. ‘‘Wow’’ doesn’t even come close to covering what we think when we think about his average. 

Personally, I just keep thinking about that last innings in England where he was out for a duck and which meant he did not finish with an average of 100. It may just mean there is a God after all and he was making sure no earthly being could be considered as the opposition.

All I care about is that Clarke will quite possibly finish up as second to the Don, not a bad achievement for a boy from the western suburbs, Liverpool to be exact.

    AND FINALLY to soccer/football and specifically the A-League: I think it’s a terrific competition this year, with the standard of play up a few notches from previous seasons. As a result we’re seeing more local players getting selected for the Socceroos, which is great.

This year’s so far brilliant season has also seen the emergence of a western suburbs team, the Wanderers, and they’re doing OK under the coaching of former Socceroo Tony Popovic. They are certainly doing better that their glitzy inner city rivals, Sydney FC.

Being a western suburbs boy, I tried but just could not get into Sydney, but when the Wanderers came on the scene I immediately felt an affinity with them. Plus I love the colours and I expect a black and red Wanderers jumper to be dropped under the Christmas tree at the Kontos household this year.

On a serious note, though, my wish list would include seeing a bit more of the Wanderers in all of the western suburbs.

It is really disappointing that they will play all their home games at Parramatta, instead of spreading their wings around the golden west. Surely they could have played one or two matches at Penrith and Campbelltown.

And it would not hurt to get some of the players to drop in to a couple of other major soccer hubs, Fairfield and Liverpool, from time to time.

There is some talk Liverpool may eventually build a boutique football stadium and it would be in the Wanderers’ long term interest to keep an eye out for such initiatives.

If they really want to represent the entire western suburbs of Sydney, they will need to do a lot more than just play their home games at Parramatta.

IF YOU have a comment about anything in this column, please let me know at ekontos@fairfaxmedia.com.au. I would love to hear from you.

   * I called David Gallop ‘‘The Reverend’’ in a blog with colleague Paul Haigh, because the then NRL chief was a very, very serious man and just reminded us of a religious person.

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