ORFU board expanded by two at behest of clubs, country

Keith Cooper
Keith Cooper
Town clubs and the Otago Country board have won two extra seats at the Otago Rugby Football Union board table, but it comes with a warning shot fired by the outgoing board chairman.

At a special general meeting of the ORFU last night, the clubs won a vote to have an additional two board members to represent their interests. The board will now have 10 members, up from eight.

The clubs also voted down a proposed change to the board appointment panel put forward by the union.

The union wanted total independence of the board appointment panel, so the two appointees nominated to the panel by clubs should not be office holders of an affiliated body.

The affiliated bodies were members of the Metropolitan Rugby council, the Otago Country board, the Otago Rugby Referees Association and the Otago Secondary Schools council.

Board chairman Keith Cooper said it was imperative the board selection process was seen to be totally independent and was best practice around the country.

It was vital to protect future challenges and clubs had the opportunity to nominate prospective board members in this process, but not many had come forward.

Cooper said looking back at 2012, when the union almost went out of business because of debt, the need for total independence was important.

A letter from New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chairman Brent Impey said NZR supported the position and current structure of the ORFU board and the board had made real progress since the structure was introduced.

In the letter, Impey said there was no compelling business case to unwind the structure that was determined by clubs in 2012.

Dunedin delegate Paul Dwyer said the clubs were the majority stakeholders in Otago and he felt there was a lot of misinformation around the proposal to have 10 board members with the additional club representatives.

The clubs did not want to get into a war with the ORFU and he admitted 10 people on a board was probably too many. But the clubs simply wanted a more direct voice at the board table.

He said talk of the NZR board going to full independent directors was wrong, as provinces still voted delegates in.

Cooper said the current model had directors with different skill sets and not because they represented a particular group of people. NZR contributed more than $1 million to the ORFU annually and wanted a board of best practice, he said.

Five of the current directors had club connections. Cooper has indicated he is standing down as chairman in the next few weeks.

The clubs and Otago Country would nominate a board member shortly and they would have an initial two year appointment term.

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