Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Brian Carney: Super League in desperate need of strong leadership
Last Updated: 02/05/18 3:35pm
Sky Sports' Brian Carney insists enough is enough and demands Super League and the Rugby Football League bosses rescue the sport's reputation...
Never has the game needed strong leadership more than it does right now.
I have thought for some time that we have been lacking leadership but I think recent events have highlighted how urgent that need has now become.
We have had good governance over the last decade but absolutely no leadership by almost any definition of the word.
The game, and by that I mean the clubs, the players, the coaches, the referees and the supporters, need a leader to ensure that we, as former US president John Quincy Adams famously said, 'dream more, learn more, do more and become more'.
Let's look at a few recent incidents that highlight the need for leadership and the worrying absence of it.
Kelly courts trouble
On last week's Golden Point, we discussed the controversial Albert Kelly video that has recently emerged. There was nothing from the governing body on this video.
It would be unfair and untrue of me to say that they condone this, no reasonable person would, but still we have heard nothing from them.
We clearly had a player breach the RFL's operational rules and the governing body took no action.
There is no leadership, no instruction to players and clubs that this is unacceptable behaviour and that it will be punished.
Referees need a leader too.
A couple of questionable and, certainly in one case I believe, incorrect obstruction calls from the video referee led to a clamour for the head of those referees.
How often do we hear public support of the referees from their leaders?
And by that I don't just mean Head of Match Officials, Steve Ganson, I mean the people tasked with leading our game.
Sadly, this isn't a new problem.
Look back at the last few years and you'll find public attacks on referees from players (admittedly on rare occasions) and coaches (unfortunately less rare).
These prompted nothing from the governing body except what I believe were private attempts at appeasement.
The referees have an unenviable task and (shock horror!) they make mistakes - as do players and coaches.
Addressing the standards of refereeing is a separate topic, I want to stick to the issue of leading your employees and being a rock solid figurehead for them in times of trouble - our referees don't currently have that.
Soft punishment for Hardaker?
Now let's look at the Zak Hardaker incident.
On this Thursday's Golden Point (Sky Sports Arena, 7pm) we'll discuss the Hardaker suspension in-depth and consider the circumstances around it.
However, I will say this, Zak is a multiple offender.
They were different offences admittedly but we have now had a 'community resolution' following the assault of a student, a conviction for homophobic abuse on the field and now a positive drugs test and an admission of cocaine use.
I didn't hear particularly strong leadership when any of Zak's offences came to light, and that is also applicable to other players.
It's not quite a case of laissez faire on the part of the clubs, but it is a very good impression of that.
One wonders what might have happened if some more strident action had been taken against Zak following his previous misdemeanours.
He served a five-match suspension for the homophobic abuse he was guilty of but I can't help but think a £20,000 fine would have sharpened his thoughts a little more.
Why do I introduce a possible monetary punishment into the equation? Well, interestingly, certain individuals were vociferous in their opposition to Todd Carney joining Super League.
Ultimately, Todd had to play under a £50,000 bond that would be relinquished should he be found guilty of contravening RFL operational rules or a criminal act.
Carney offended in a different jurisdiction to Super League but I believe weak leadership listened to a voice calling for a bond and imposed it.
He's hardly the biggest offender we have ever had in this game.
The front runner for the Man of Steel, Ben Barba, an absolute sensation on the field and a joy to watch has come to Super League with his own history.
To my recollection, there has been no bond placed on Barba despite a couple of strikes against his name in the NRL including a failed drugs test and a 12-match suspension.
Again, it boils down to a lack of leadership, flip-flopping and bowing to voices on some occasions and ignoring them in other cases.
In the vacuum created by the absence of leadership, there is a greater chance of misdemeanours and mishaps occurring and miscreants thriving.
We desperately want guidance from above as it were.
If it sounds all doom and gloom, it's not, because change has already occurred.
A new Super League chief executive is on the way and a new RFL chief executive is on the way.
The only other professional rugby league comparable to ours is the NRL where they have a chief executive called Todd Greenberg.
He doesn't get it right all the time, (who does?) but he is both vocal and visible and quick to address issues as soon as they arise. That would be a good starting point for his counterparts in this part of the world.
I see a tremendously bright future for the game that we all love to watch.
All I would say is that whoever steps into these roles, I would ask only one thing - that they lead the game in the way it deserves to be led and inspire us to 'dream more, learn more, do more and become more'.