Kearns reveals his 'real' agenda
Phil Kearns believes he is armed with the business nous and financial backing Rugby Australia needs after joining 10 other Wallaby captains pushing for urgent administrative change.
Kearns teamed with the likes of George Gregan and Nick Farr-Jones in signing a letter on Monday calling for a leadership overhaul at RA head office.
A television commentator, Kearns was beaten to the Chief Executive position by current RA boss Raelene Castle in 2017.
Kearns admitted his ties to rugby’s long-term broadcaster and 2017 battle with Castle left him open to critics, but that the push was “for the good of the game”.
He avoided the question when asked if he was gunning for her job, but said the consortium of captains were frustrated and “shared the sentiment the game needs to change and change quickly before it’s gone”.
“We’ve seen our ratings fall, our crowds fall, we don’t have a broadcast sponsor for next year, we’ve seen a $9.4 million loss and the Wallabies are seventh in the world now,” he told Fox Sports.
“There’s a lot of stuff there that can show the demise of our game and there’s no self-interest at all.
“[I’ve heard] comments from sponsors, comments from broadcasters, comments from people in the game, comments from the players.
“That’s pretty much every stakeholder there saying the game needs to change.”
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Castle rejected Fox Sports‘ initial broadcast bid and opted to test the market before the coronavirus pandemic shut down world sport, stalling talks and highlighting rugby’s financial fragility.
Kearns is asking for access to complete 2019 financial records and a special general meeting with RA, arguing that lack of transparency is stifling any rescue efforts.
“[The former captains are] not just out there throwing stones. There’s a pretty good bunch of supporters and players there that know business, are not dummies and want to create that plan going forward,” Kearns said.
“There’s been a lot of contact with these captains over the last couple of days in particular and there’s no end of people that will look to throw money into the game if there is that change.”
Stirling Mortlock, George Smith, Michael Lynagh, Simon Poidevin, Stephen Moore, Jason Little, Rod McCall and Nathan Sharpe were the other skippers to sign the letter, with John Eales, Tim Horan and Andrew Slack notable omissions.
The captains have since been encouraged to meet with the RA board, who have already begun a “whole of rugby” review while eyeing a potential competitive return in July.
“I’ve met with nearly all of the people on that list over my time. The one thing I’ve said to them is, ‘as a Wallaby, you have a right to ring me at any stage and give me any feedback specifically about things that you’re not happy with or ideas you’ve got of how to change the game’,” Castle told rugby.com.au.
“We have to be open-minded to new things and new change; if people have got those views, we want them to come to the table.”