The head of the RA responds after the leak of the complaint of “abusive” behavior of the consortium

Rugby Australia has strongly rejected claims that an RA board member treated members of the private consortium seeking to save the Melbourne Rebels with “contempt”.

Georgia Widdup, a spokesperson for the consortium led by her father Leigh Clifford, wrote an email to RA president Daniel Herbert on Thursday, complaining about director Matt Hanning’s behavior at meetings earlier this week that preceded the RA’s decision. to reject the consortium’s plan.

Herbert and chief executive Phil Waugh met with Rebels players and staff on Thursday to tell them the franchise would not play in Super Rugby in 2025.

The couple said the private consortium’s plan to save the rebels was rejected “for lack of details and transparency.”

Rugby Australia president Daniel Herbert. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Clifford immediately announced that the consortium would take legal action next week.

Herbert’s response to Widdup’s email was blunt and direct: he dismissed his account of the meeting and concluded that “no reasonable national sports organization or sports governing body would issue a license to people who engage in such behaviour.”

Widdup’s email was leaked to multiple media outlets on Friday.

In the email, Widdup wrote:

“As you may be aware, I, along with Leigh Clifford and representatives from KordaMentha, made a presentation to Rugby Australia Limited representatives yesterday afternoon (Wednesday). This presentation was urgently organized at the request of Rugby Australia.

“A number of representatives from Rugby Australia were present, including Phil Waugh and Matt Hanning. Obviously, both people are Directors of Rugby Australia.

“I am writing to express my concern about the conduct of some Rugby Australia representatives during the presentation, in particular the conduct of Matt Hanning.

“Mr Hanning was, throughout the presentation, belligerent, argumentative and abusive. He frequently interrupted the presenters and made adverse comments about the presentation and the participants.

“Members of the consortium have invested a lot of time and resources to provide Rugby Australia with a pathway to maintain a viable rugby presence in Victoria. This may not suit Rugby Australia’s short or long term objectives (which I note have never been articulated to us), but the efforts are genuine and do not deserve to be dismissed in the way they were and with the disdain that He showed himself to everyone. of us.”

Widdup added that he believed the conduct breached the RA Code of Conduct and asked RA president Daniel Herbert to “counsel” Hanning.

“In my opinion, the conduct of some of the representatives, including Mr Hanning, clearly breached the Code. “I bring this to your attention as Chairman of the Australian Rugby Board as a matter of courtesy and hope that, given his position, you will take steps to advise Mr Hanning and others so that this behavior is not repeated.”

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh and Rugby Australia President Daniel Herbert speak to the media during a press conference at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto on May 30, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia.  Rugby Australia has announced the results of an application from a consortium seeking a share agreement for Melbourne.  Rebels in the Super Rugby Pacific 2025 competition. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Phil Waugh, CEO of Rugby Australia, and Daniel Herbert, President of Rugby Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Herbert strongly rejected Widdup’s claims and denied that any Rugby Australia representatives had acted inappropriately.

“Having discussed the matter with our representatives at the presentation, I am satisfied that the Rugby Australia Code of Conduct has not been breached,” he said in response.

“My understanding is that while our representatives may have raised some difficult or uncomfortable questions, they asked them firmly but respectfully.

“Our representatives were of the opinion that the responses provided to those questions were neither responsive nor adequate and, given the number of comments made by or on behalf of the Consortia to the media regarding the advanced status of the proposal, the responses were, at most therefore totally unsatisfactory. .

“I also understand that issues were also raised about his personal position and that of a potential conflict.

“Again, this may have caused you some discomfort, but that was not the intention of our representatives.

“However, we were entitled to know what role he has played to date and will play in the future, given that he is also one of the directors of Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Pty Limited (MRRU), which has not only threatened to sue Rugby Australia and its directors, but the Administrator has determined that he has marketed MRRU while it was insolvent during his tenure as director.

“We also have the right to know who else proposed to participate in the future.

“I understand from our representatives at the presentation that both you and Leigh refused to disclose this information and were not prepared to do so until Rugby Australia had agreed key terms to move forward with the Consortium. This is simply unacceptable.

“As for the other allegations in your correspondence, they are not clearly articulated for me to provide an adequate response. However, I note that the purpose of your communication was to draw my attention to the alleged conduct of our representatives at last night’s meeting.

“Thank you for doing so, however I am not convinced that any representative should receive counseling or speak about their conduct.

“Finally, I would like to inform you of clause 4.1(y) of the Rugby Australia Code of Conduct which requires that those subject to the Code (which includes you and your fellow directors) “not facilitate, aid, abet or abet.” in Prohibited Conduct or act in any other way that is or may be detrimental to the interests of any Relevant Organization (including Rugby Australia and Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Pty Ltd) or the game or that otherwise brings the game into disrepute.”

“Their actions, including threats of legal action and public disparagement, are detrimental to the interests of Rugby Australia and the game as a whole.

“While we understand his desire to protect the personal interests of his family, it is important to recognize that such conduct undermines Rugby Australia’s core value of integrity and brings the sport into disrepute. “No reasonable national sports organization or sports governing body would issue a license to people who engage in such behaviour.”

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