Rugby

Industry gets the management it deserves

What did the Rugby Australia (RA) board expect from Israel Folau? That he’d crawl away into obscurity? CM has long held the RA’s handling of this affair has been about as good as the Wallabies on-field performance under Michael Cheika, the coach with the worst record in the history of the team.

Industry gets the management it deserves. Bad outcomes come from poor decisions at the top. RA CEO Raelene Castle’s performance in this affair has revealed she has no crisis management credentials. If Folau ends up bankrupting RA then management didn’t weigh the risks properly when they terminated him for a supposed “high-level breach”.

Recall RA tried to buy Israel Folau off with a $1m shut-up cheque but his religious beliefs weren’t for sale. Folau reached out to former Wallaby and fellow devout Christian, Nick Farr-Jones, who concluded after an intense grilling that his faith was authentic. Did the board take into account NF-J’s testimony? 

The RA’s decision smacks of the spineless virtue signalling that pervades our corporates today. It folds at the first sign of social media activist pressure. It might bang on about “inclusivity” but it practices exclusivity. One wonders if a player from another religion tweeted “apostasy is death” the board would have sung an entirely different tune. It would have said, “we respect all views.

Then we saw the hypocrisy of NRL Chairman Peter Beattie who spoke of the importance of inclusion and freedom of speech (when it comes to players protesting the national anthem) despite affirming that Folau would never play rugby league. So which is it? Whose freedom of speech is free? Beattie even argued that the Folau Twitter post still remained up. If he took it down would the NRL sign him up? Not a chance.

As CM wrote in the last dispatch, RA’s #1 priority does not appear to be rugby. The website is flush with identity politics. Such as this:

MCC works with influential leaders and encourages them to take action towards gender equality. 

Rugby Australia is a proud supporter of MCC and our Chief Executive Raelene Castle has recently been appointed as a Special Advisor on the MCC Sport program. 

This program aims to enhance the involvement of women in all aspects of sport and works with key stakeholders to achieve pay equity.

What has this got to do with managing the Wallabies franchise? Too much focus on irrelevant things that will not turn around the continual losses in the business because the key ingredient that generates revenue – a winning team is second fiddle.

RA folded at the foot of the sponsor, Qantas. A sponsor has the rights to be represented in certain ways but how little confidence must RA have in its ability to attract new backers? Cricket Australia snagged Alinta Energy after the ball-tampering scenario. CM reckons the Adani Wallabies has a nice ring to it.

RA is not run for its fans. Player David Pocock was arrested and charged for chaining himself to a piece of heavy equipment but Folau was fired for quoting a passage from the Bible.

It is quite likely that Folau’s bid in the High Court will succeed. Our constitution enshrines free speech. Whether we like what he said or not is irrelevant. We either support it or we don’t.

Maybe RA needs a total clean out? Perhaps sending in the receivers would see the appointment of someone who loves the game and reconnects with the fans, not waste time trying to enforce identity politics on them.  RA was set up for one purpose. To win.

Why not look at the yardstick of attendance? Why is it since 1962, Eden Park in Auckland is always at full capacity when the beloved All Blacks play? Because the team is so dominant. Why is attendance at Stadium Australia at 65~80% of available seats when it used to be 100% in 2002-2009? Why have Super Rugby attendance figures slumped t to around 11,000 per game vs 35,000 for Aussie Rules and 15,000 for NRL? Even A-League soccer gets average game attendances of 12,500. There is a message here RA. You are not connecting with the flock.

Perhaps Izzy Folau is reciting in prayer for the fans;

For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Castle tackles inclusivity with exclusivity

The board of Rugby Australia (RA) has capitulated at the altar of political correctness. CEO Raelene Castle unconvincingly announced the reasons why Israel Folau’s contract has been terminated. This is a board that acted on external activism. It buckled. Castle squirmed around the question of whether sponsors had applied pressure or not. What Folau said was unnecessary but how is it other players can get arrested and get away with a written warning?

Ultimately, RA will feel the wrath at the ticket office from already disgruntled paying fans. Attendance continues to slide. RA losses are expected for 2019 following the losses in 2017. The 2018 profit was merely due to an exceptional item. Perhaps Folau’s termination will help plug the hole in the P&L. No wonder losses are being made, given the pitiful performances led by a man with the worst record of any Wallabies coach. Why is he still there?

Australia will be lucky to make it beyond the quarterfinals at the Rugby World Cup in Japan this year. Yet the CEO and board tolerate his woeful record. CM has long argued Michael Cheika can’t unite that team. His record proves it. His team rally behind him publicly but their faces tell a different story.

Castle is out of her depth. She might have cried inclusiveness but there was no conviction in the press conference. Inclusiveness, to many of those on the left, is limited to whatever they prescribe. Stray from the party line and get excluded. Her eyes said it all in the press conference – she is definitely no crisis manager.

Folau, on the other hand, didn’t accept a $1m buy off to walk away so RA could wash their hands of the matter. He stuck and continues to stick to his faith. Hopefully, he takes it all the way to the High Court to leave RA with more egg on its face.

Let’s be clear. Folau hasn’t called for violence against homosexuals. Yet why is it just that group that is singled out as victims? CM ticked a few boxes on his tweet. Surely CM’s right to feeling oppressed is just as valid on the faux outrage scale. Where are the drunkards, adulterers and fornicators calling for his head? Nowhere. With good reason. Because 99.9% of people probably rolled their eyes at the tweet and moved on.

Look at RA’s Male Champions of Change (MCC) program. This is the focus of RA and it is not rugby. RA’s website openly states the following,

MCC works with influential leaders and encourages them to take action towards gender equality. 

Rugby Australia is a proud supporter of MCC and our Chief Executive Raelene Castle has recently been appointed as a Special Advisor on the MCC Sport program. 

This program aims to enhance the involvement of women in all aspects of sport and works with key stakeholders to achieve pay equity.

What on earth could have possessed RA to hire an activist as CEO? Castle also promotes on the RA website:

I have seen the challenges first hand and I have a personal passion to ensure that the gender equality discussion is at the forefront across all aspects of our society.

Quite frankly 99% of her customers couldn’t care less about RA’s stance on gender equality nor the group’s wish to drive it across society. They want to see good rugby. They d not see it as RA’s job to tell them how to behave. RA is answering questions nobody is asking.  If female coaches are better than the males, no male rugby supporter will care if the team is quite literally putting scores on the board. No one needs or wants RA’s activism which also extends to male domestic violence. How about female domestic violence against men? Take a look at the stats. Let’s just beat up on toxic masculinity because it is easier.

Where was the board when Wallabies flanker David Pocock encouraged school kids to join the climate strike or retweeted posts mocking climate skeptics? Is his climate activism ranked above Folau’s quoting of a religious text? Did RA do anything when Pocock was arrested for chaining himself to an excavator for 10 hours at the Maules Creek mine? He was charged with “trespass, remaining on enclosed land without lawful excuse and hindering the working of mining equipment.” Raelene Castle wasn’t CEO at the time but Cameron Clyne, Paul McLean and Ann Sherry were and still are board members. Where is the balance in sanctions handed out?

Let’s not forget the double standards of Pocock. He can find it in his heart to play for a team that is sponsored by Qantas which emits more carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre than any other airline operating across the Pacific, according to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation. Oh, the irony that he also happily played for a team that was sponsored by gas-guzzling Land Rover SUVs. Nary a peep from the climate activist when it lines his pockets.

What will the other devout Christian Pacific Islanders do? Will they leave the Wallabies en masse? They’re good enough to find homes in other sides. The Japanese would welcome them.

If the RA board think they’ve reached a moral high ground in this decision they’re seriously mistaken. Trying to pay him off was the first big mistake because his faith trumped their expediency. They thought he was all bluster, just like the players who threatened to boycott the team if he remained. Folau wasn’t for sale.

CM has repeatedly said that Folau’s remarks in a public forum were unnecessary but defends his right to say them.

Castle’s decision is a perfect representation of the growing trend of allowing virtue signaling to infect a board which will spectacularly backfire. This is no different to Gillette, Colgate and other brands trying to do moral preening. People want the product. Start throwing lashings of political correctness and watch customers desert them. Footy Show anyone? Trying to be a ‘woke’ corporate is the closest thing to sleepwalking off a cliff.

Let these poor people grieve in peace!

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Now it seems that the Canterbury Crusaders rugby union team is getting pressure to change the name in the wake of the horrible events of last week in Christchurch. At what point will activists stop creating outrage where none had existed to date? Can they cite one incidence of the NZ Muslim community demanding the 9x Super Rugby champions change it for the sheer offence it triggered among them before this tragedy? No. Would rebranding it the Sultans help redress the balance in the eyes of these apparatchiks? Let these poor people grieve without this politically correct nonsense to deal with! Where is the compassion? Where is the respect? Stop politicizing this tragedy to grief signal.

There have been numerous atrocities caused against the Muslim community around the world and even then we never heard the Islamic councils in NZ  murmur a word against changing the name of a professional sports club. Probably suggests the majority were already well above such trivialities and probably didn’t see any relevance. All Blacks legend Sonny Bill Williams, who converted to Islam in 2009, played for the Crusaders in 2011. He did not raise any issues against the club based on his learnings. Surely he should have rejected the contract if he thought it would create a problem for his brothers and sisters. He didn’t. Although he did take exception to having Bank of NZ sponsorship displays on his uniform as it conflicted with his religious beliefs on institutions that charge interest. So he has proved he is across his subject matter. Are the activists?

Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge, posted on the team website the following.

Like all New Zealanders, the Crusaders team and organisation are deeply shocked by this tragedy and our thoughts are with the victims and their families. This is bigger than rugby and we’re absolutely heartbroken for our wider community, which is where our thoughts are.
 
In terms of the Crusaders name, we understand the concerns that have been raised. For us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community. What we stand for is the opposite of what happened in Christchurch on Friday; our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit.
 
In our view, this is a conversation that we should have and we are taking on board all of the feedback that we are receiving, however, we also believe that the time for that is not right now. Emotions are very raw and real at the moment. There is the need for this community to wrap our support around those who are most affected by Friday’s events, and that is the immediate focus for the Crusaders team. At an appropriate time, we will thoroughly consider the issues that have been raised and our response to that. That will include conversations with a range of people, including our Muslim community.
 
This team and the wider organisation are united with our community in standing against such abhorrent acts as that which occurred on Friday in Christchurch, and in standing in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters.” 

CM truly hopes that the Crusaders hold the line and refuse to buy into this political pressure. Good on the CEO made these sensible remarks. The club has never pushed a narrative other than playing rugby. Why then must it being singled out for demonization like this? Are we to believe that there are no Crusaders rugby fans that happen to be Muslim? While the activists are at it perhaps the Newcastle Knights and St George Illawarra Dragons should remove these symbols of Christianity from their logos to show their solidarity across the ditch. How did devout Muslim Hazem El Masri ever play for the Canterbury Bulldogs given that canines are considered impure? Can the social justice warriors answer that? 

There is a strong betting that the NZ Muslim community won’t ask for a change in the name of the Crusaders when things settle down if and when it gets to such a conversation. One can be confident it will be so far down the list of priorities. Far more pressing issues to help with the healing process after this senseless act than meddling with a professional sports club.  

Terrorism strikes Tokyo

Japan and terrorism tend to be though of as mutually exclusive terms. Not so. The lady pictured above, Fusako Shigenobu, was the founder of the Japanese Red Army who masterminded countless hijackings and shot up Lod International Airport. Back in March 2016, CM wrote a report on terrorism in The land of the rising sun.

On this New Years Eve, a Japanese man, Kazuhiro Kusakabe, sought revenge over the execution of members of the Aum Shinrikyo, a cult which will live in infamy over the Tokyo Subway sarin attack,

He has apparently admitted he wanted to set the car alight with 20 liters of kerosene (he doused himself as well) but if that failed he wanted to run down people in the often crowded Takeshita-dori in Harajuku, It is a narrow street with little way of escape so had he managed to get going the damage would have been unspeakable.

As Japan faces the Rugby World Cup this year followed by the Summer Olympic Games in 2020, it appears poorly prepared to counter terrorist threats. Japan’s airports are perhaps the softest targets as the 2016 report noted.

The Tokyo Olympics is already being touted as the “omotenashi” (polite/courteous) games. The last time a country tried to approach an Olympiad with visible softness with respect to security was Munich in 1972. That tragedy left 11 Israeli athletes and one German police officer dead and another seriously wounded in crossfire because of the amateur hour siege at Furstenfeldbruck.

Japan is putting together an 80 member all female riot squad. They’d be better off fielding 80 sumo wrestlers to show they were serious. The Tokyo Met Police might site they are using smart technologies (eg facial recognition) but there is little sign of putting together a visible special forces unit should serious trouble ensue.

If terrorists wanted a soft global target to get maximum exposure, 2020 is perhaps their best bet. Security companies Alsok & Secom may brag about their protective credentials but the reality is their upside is zero and downside unlimited if terrorist acts are committed.

A sad way to begin the New Year. Japan mustn’t look backwards but focus on how they can avoid trouble at two major global events.

Cheikmate

Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is clearly massively under pressure. Sporting the second worst win/loss record of any Australian rugby coach he hit out at journalists questioning whether it is time to pack it in by suggesting they take mental disorder suppressing “pills” for exposing his dreadful stats. His team was walloped by New Zealand 40-12. The All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 16th straight year.

Cheika talked of “passion” for the job but a great coach is one that extracts the best from the players by making them believe in themselves and achieve well beyond what they think they can. Australia need a Brian Clough type coach rather than the thuggish style of Cheika. Basic discipline is lacking in the Aussie team and that stems from the top. A coach that was confident in his ability to attain quality results wouldn’t resort to cheap shots. He’d merely let the scoreboard do the talking. Instead he shows the pressure is too much for him.  This press conference (especially from 5:30) confirms he is not right for the role. Time to replace him.

CM has made the argument multiple times – if money was taken away from the game all current All Blacks would still play proudly for their country. For the Aussies it is likely only a handful that might feel the same. Cheika is not building a team steeped in history, but making excuses for his dreadful deficiencies. He may accuse journalists of being clueless by stating they’ve never coached before, but should he possess an enviable success ratio the press wouldn’t ask for reasons why the Wallabies were road kill.

Cheikmate- time to go gracefully. The fans aren’t buying it.

If only the Bledisloe Cup was 36 minutes…

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The Wallabies played a stupendous first 36 minutes in the 1st half. Great defence and solid possession. Then a try by the All Blacks set off a 6 try spree. The second half was a typical joke performance by a team that continually flakes when the cage is rattled. 7 lost line outs on our own feed and our scrum was screwed multiple times.

CM has thought for a while that coach Michael Cheika needs to go. He can’t bring 80 minutes of discipline with his players.  He has a 54% win record at the helm. With the All Blacks its 22%. Even Scotland is 50%. This is the second worst record of any Aussie coach.

Bob Dwyer – 64% win record

Alan Jones – 68%

Greg Smith – 63%

Rod Macqueen – 79%

Eddie Jones – 58%

John Connolly- 59%

Robbie Deans – 58%

Ewen Mackenzie- 50%

Time to realize he is a dud. The lack of discipline goes straight to the leadership team. There are no positives to take away when a team can only hold it together for just under half a game. It is not an issue of players or ability but discipline.

It doesn’t take away a deserved win by New Zealand but the engravers might as well get to work on the 16th straight series victory because the Wallabies are mere road kill for now.

Austria proves again why the EU needs to listen more and talk less

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God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we’d listen more and talk less,’ so the old saying goes This is what the EU gets for trying to bully its member states. It wasn’t long ago that EU President Jean-Claude Juncker was telling Austrians that if they democratically elected Norbert Hofer of the right wing FPO then the EU would remove Austria’s voting rights and cut off any transfers. Well the Austrians have voted for a conservative anti-immigrant party (which wants a programme to get immigrants to assimilate with the local culture) with a 31yo leader, Sebastian Kurz. His People’s Party garnered 31.4% (+7%) of the vote with the far-right wing FPO coming in second at 27.4% and incumbent Social Democrat Party coming in third with 26.7%. The Greens will probably not make the cut off of 4% to make a party, So once again the EU has had yet another major repudiation of its totalitarian ideals.

CM has been making the point for ages that forcing one’s beliefs onto others must be done in a way that listens to the other side. Otherwise it delivers results like Trump. It seems the EU hasn’t learned a thing.

So what have we had?

-Le Pen garnered 1/3rd of the French vote (double the best ever achieved by Front National),

-the far right Freedom Party’s (FPO) Norbert Hofer still managed 46% in Austria farcical re-run presidential election),

-Geert Wilders’ 25% increase in seats for the anti-immigrant PVV in The Netherlands,

-the surge in the Sweden Democrats to the top of the recent polls, Elections in 2018.

-Italy’s referendum which turned into a backdoor vote to oust PM Renzi. Elections in 2018 likely.

Brexit (although PM May is handling negotiations in true British efficiency – Fawlty Towers ring a bell?),

the Swiss handing back a 30yr standing free ticket to join the EU,

-the AfD in Germany getting 13% of the vote (Merkel may have won but it was her party’s worse showing in 7 decades)

…these don’t look like promising trends for an EU which is already badly listing. Despite ample warnings the EU refused (and still refuses) to change its course or exercise due care. It just issues more threats.

While the left openly voices its rage at these ‘right-wing’ parties growing in support, they never bother to seek reasons why. The right are generally just dismissed as racists, bigots or worse.  Major party loyalty has never been worse. The fabric of the loyal party voter base is wearing thinner. Take Australia’s One Nation Party led by Senator Pauline Hanson. The popularity of the mainstream LNP and Labor Parties is at record lows. One Nation is now 10% of the vote from 2% several decades ago. While some parties may claim their loyal base has abandoned them the stronger case to be made is the clear shift of the parties away from their once faithful constituents. Why?

Incumbent governments seem to cower at receiving negative news from the 24-7 polling cycle that is social media. Being careful to avoid inviting attack, they pander to all of the socially acceptable agendas – climate change, gender fluid bathrooms, laws clamping down on free speech, open borders and afffirmative action.

However political correctness is clearly not the answer as these results across Europe and elsewhere show. People are sick of the brow beating by socialist activists. Tired of the constant protests and social justice bleating. The NFL might find that most of its fans are against police brutality but they aren’t wanting a weekly lecture in grievance politics with the price of entry or their cable TV channel. Growing weary of the idea that it is ‘free speech’ and anything against those ideals are deemed ‘hate speech’. It is not to deny some positions are not necessarily palatable but in the marketplace of free speech, ridiculous positions can easily be disproven. Better to give extremist voices a chance to talk and invite public opinion on them at their own peril. Shutting it down forces it underground., making it inherently more dangerous.

Too many mainstream political parties are moving off the policy reserve that defined them so their once loyal followers are actively seek ones that will. While Hanson’s One Nation or Senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives may not tick every box to existing LNP voters, they cover enough of the positions that matter to them that they’ll tolerate some of the more out there ideas. It is not uncommon to hear the left complain at One Nation’s is growing popularity at the expense of the Greens but it is a devil of their own making.

So will the EU listen to the Austrian call? Will it pay attention to the Hungarians who voted over 98% against accepting forced migrant quotas? Think through the logic. If you were an asylum seeker, would you think your chances of unincumbered settlement would be best placed where 98.4% of the population doesn’t want you? It is irrelevant whether we think the Hungarians are insensitive brutes not to extend a welcome to those that are legitimately in need. It is their country and their democracy has spoken. If Brussels assumes to dictate to Hungary how it wishes to protect its culture and whatever it holds precious, why shouldn’t the EU have the same rights to enforce income tax, housing benefits and anything else it sees fit? Of course it is a preposterous notion.

It will not be long before the EU will be front and center on Greece. Let us not forget that the EU colluded with Goldman Sachs to ‘fiddle’ the accounts to make Hellas much prettier optically than it was. Was this pig without lipstick it wouldn’t have gained acceptance to the club. So the EU is not in a position to claim innocence over a deliberate ploy to ram-road the Greeks into its federal state yet have no qualms treating it with disdain. Talk about double standards.

In all seriousness the treatment of the Greeks by the EU is despicable beyond words. So for all of the left’s blind love for the EU and its socialist agenda, 36% of Greeks live below the poverty line and 58% of the youth are unemployed. So for all of the EU’s shared sense of purpose and equality, that means many can’t access affordable healthcare because it is generally provided by corporates and when you lose a job you lose the healthcare. This means many are forced to use A&E of major hospitals which are now overcrowded and understaffed as more doctors are leaving to seek better fortune for their services elsewhere.

If that wasn’t enough, mothers who had given birth were being restricted from taking their new-borns home if they couldn’t pay the hospital fees. While the government has banned this practice they have introduced new laws to allow the seizure of assets (e.g. homes) if debts are not settled.

Shortly, the Greeks are coming up for discussion over its debt position and austerity. With just months left before Greece’s latest lifeline expires, officials directly involved in the country’s bailout say they don’t have the stomach for contingent aid program when the current one expires in August 2018. While the EU and Athens are battle worn after 7 years of this knife edge rescue,  Greece will need to show it can go it alone but it’s eurozone creditors will be reluctant without further strings attached.

Here is betting that the EU doesn’t heed the lessons that have been ringing loud and clear for years. Sincerely hoping Greece leaves the EU and lets market forces revive its economy. Better to die on its feet than live on its knees.