Sheilas and rugby governance: Fergie McCormick will find himself offside with red-blooded blokes

Dunno what sort of company Fergie McCormick is keeping nowadays.

Alf fondly remembers him as a rugged sort of bloke’s bloke as well as a splendid All Black full-back.

But the bugger has put himself in the news today by joining something called “a heavyweight group” that wants the New Zealand Rugby Union “to change its archaic male-dominated structure” and …

Alf choked on his bacon and eggs when he read it!

And put a woman on its board.

This so-called heavyweight group includes Labour MP Louisa Wall, whose political leanings put her beyond the pale before we start examining other aspects of her lifestyle that might raise eyebrows in the Eketahuna Club.

The report at Stuff (here) tells of a campaign by the Human Rights Commission to be announced tomorrow in “Census of Women’s Participation 2012”, a biennial report examining women’s representation in professional and public life.

Someone at Stuff has gone to McCormick, apparently, because he coaches the Linwood women’s rugby team.

McCormick’s dismaying response is that he supports a woman’s voice at the NZRU board table.

“Women don’t get much of a say. They don’t get the recognition they deserve,” he said. “I’d dearly love to see a woman on the NZRU board. But she’d have to stand her ground.”

And what would be the consequences?

Let’s see.

Ann Sherry, the former head of Westpac in New Zealand, and now chief executive of cruise ship line Carnival Australia, was the first female director on the Australian Rugby Union board.

At a time when rugby has become big business, boardrooms need to reflect the sport’s diverse interests, she says. “The reality now is that the game is extremely professional; that requires a change in the governance as well.”

She believes she has a perspective of the business that would have been missed by men.
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And what has happened to the Australian rugby team in recent years?

Oh, yes.

It has become a helluva lot easier for the All Blacks to beat.

All this governance howz-yer-father seems to be about the fact that rugby is one of seven sports without any women at national governance level.

Wonder if they brought the splendid sport of dwarf-throwing into considerations when they did their head count.

Oh, and they are banging on about only four women in 194 board positions in provincial rugby.

This begs something much more risible than a disdainful “so what”?

Another left-leaning lass comes into the Stuff report at this juncture –

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor says in the report: “Sports governance is a critical area for female representation – given its significance in our national identity, rugby should be a leader, not the last bastion of chauvinism.”

Alf is happy for the women to go for it, and to do all the governing they can muster in netball, synchronised swimming, speed knitting and other such sheilas’ sports.

He is much more dubious about women on the rugby board, although he does observe that –

Farah Palmer, who captained the New Zealand women’s rugby team to three consecutive world cups in 1998, 2002 and 2006, said there were many women capable of holding their place in the NZRU pack.

“There are definitely women in the business and corporate world who could take on the role as an independent board member of the NZRU. There are also women who are heavily involved in the management side of the game that could step in to that board role and provide a greater diversity of perspectives.”

It seems Louisa Wall, MP for Manurewa and New Zealand women’s rugby player of the year in 1997, has tried twice for top rugby governance positions.

Stuff tells us she wanted a seat on the NZRU board, and more recently tried for a seat on the Blues board.

“I had been a member of the Hillary Commission and I was encouraged by Sir Brian Lochore to put my name forward for the NZRU without success. I didn’t even get an interview for the Blues board. It is such an old boys’ network.”

Is there any hint here that she gave it a go and wasn’t up to scratch?

Wall also said the NZRU must invest in the women’s game at all levels if it wants to succeed when rugby returns to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Tossing the sheilas a bit of money seems okay to Alf.

But if we put them on the board – well, what next? Pressure for women to become captain of the All Blacks?

Let’s give the last word to Donna Grant, who this year became the first woman on the Warriors board. She said there had been some outside comment about her role and relevance to rugby league,

but inside the boardroom her presence had been invaluable.

Obviously she is modest, too.

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