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Clarke Named Rugby Australia Interim CEO After Director Resigns

Former Rugby Australia chief operating officer, Rob Clarke, has been named the interim chief executive officer of Rugby Australia, after board director, Peter Wiggs, resigned after just four weeks.

Clarke left Rugby Australia in 2017 but will take up the interim role immediately as Raelene Castle’s short-term replacement, saying he is not looking to be organisation’s full-time chief executive.

“The game is facing some unprecedented challenges and like all rugby supporters and people working within the game, I want to see Australian rugby get through this and emerge on the other side with greater certainty and a positive outlook,” Clarke said.

“That is a challenge that I am very willing to take on and that’s what the focus will be over the next few months while the board conducts its search for a permanent CEO.

“I think getting the game across Australia playing again after COVID-19 is critical and I know a lot of good work’s been done already by people in Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby clubs and community level around that, so the first priority is that and working with broadcast partners, Foxtel and Network Ten to complete the rest of this season, however it will work.

“Then it’s turning our minds to 2021 and beyond, what competition structures are going to make most sense and working into our SANZAAR partnership to intersect with potential broadcast partners,” he said.

The appointment of Clarke came just hours after Rugby Australia board director, Peter Wiggs’ resignation, reportedly following a disagreement with chairman Paul McLean over the recruitment process for the CEO position.

Wiggs was poised to take over as chairman from McLean but insisted he would only take the role if Australian Olympic Committee chief executive, Matt Carroll, would be awarded Castle’s old role as CEO.

Following this demand, McLean rejected the plans that would have skipped any formal recruitment or interview process, citing a conflict of interest because of Wiggs’ personal friendship with Carroll.

This then led to McLean suggesting Wiggs should remain as a director and fellow board member, Hamish McLennan be promoted to the position of chairman.

McLennan, who is a former Network Ten and News Corp senior executive, has since been reported as the most likely person to assume the role of chairman of the board, with McLean saying interim CEO, Clarke, will be tasked with facing a potential revenue loss of $120 million if no rugby can be played in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our absolute priority is to get the game back up and running across the country and supporting our community so that the game is in the best position to move forward from this current period of uncertainty in a position of good health,” McLean said.

“We believe Rob [Clarke] is the right person to enable us to achieve those objectives,” he said.