An update from the RLIF Chair

  • June 5, 2018

June 4 2018


Dear Members of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF)

I’m delighted to write to you for the first time since being elected by your Board to the position of Chair in February.  It’s an honour and a privilege to lead our wonderful sport globally.  Having had the fortune to represent my country, I believe in international rugby league.  I believe we are all the better for its success and I believe it provides aspirations for our athletes, coaches and administrators that are unequalled on the sporting field.  You can be certain that in this role I will use all my endeavours to ensure its success and that I will always act in its best interests.

The Federation is in a period of change that your Board believes will position it better to capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead.

At the Board level, Graeme Thompson, a nominee Director of the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) has been elected Deputy Chair of the Board.  Graeme brings ten years of experience on both the RLEF and RLIF Boards and can be relied on to call it as he sees it without exception and will advocate strongly on behalf of the smaller nations for what he believes is right.

Sally Bolton, the other RLEF nominee Director has tendered her resignation from the Board due to the demands of her day to day job at the All England Tennis Club.  Her experience and collegiality will be missed but she will always be a friend of rugby league.  I thank her again for the valued contribution she made.

Nigel Wood, former RLIF Chair and former CEO of the Rugby Football League (RFL) has stepped down as a Director and commenced today as RLIF CEO.  I welcome Nigel warmly into the role.  I have worked with him over the last 6 years and can assure all Members that while he was CEO of the RFL, he is an internationalist at heart and shares the belief I have that our game is better overall for the success of international rugby league.  The Board has complete confidence that, with your support, Nigel can leverage his experience and collaborative manner to lead our Federation and our game to new heights.

Your Board is excited at the opportunities that lie ahead of us.


As a consequence of these changes, there will be new Directors join the Board in the near future.  Your Directors currently are:

Name Appointed by RLIF Role
John Grant Nominee of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chair
Graeme Thompson Nominee of the RLEF Deputy Chair
To be appointed Nominee of the RLEF Director
Todd Greenberg Nominee of the ARLC and CEO of the NRL Director
Reon Edwards Nominee and Chair of the New Zealand Rugby League Alternate Director
John Bishop Nominee of the New Zealand Rugby League Director and Chair of the Audit Committee
Brian Barwick Nominee and Chair of the RFL Director
Ralph Rimmer Nominee and Interim CEO of the RFL Alternate Director
Su’a Tagaloa Faafouina Nominee and Chair of the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation (APRLC) and Chair Samoa Rugby League Director
Charles Carlson Nominee and Director of APRLC and Chair Cook Islands Rugby League Director
Nigel Wood CEO RLIF Secretary

With Nigel’s appointment as RLIF CEO, our first full time CEO David Collier finished his three year term last month.  As a very experienced sporting administrator, David’s contribution has been significant and we sincerely thank him for it.  It is worth dwelling for a moment on the progress that has been made against the Board’s Strategic Plan under David’s leadership:


Objective Progress
Create an 8 year calendar of global events There is clear support from all Members and the professional leagues for a rolling 5 year calendar to be adopted well before the end of FY18
Enhance recognition of Members by National Olympic Committee or Sports Agencies


RLIF has been accredited as an Observer by GAISF.  To retain accreditation, 40 Members must be accredited by their national sporting authorities within 2 years

RLIF has provided funds in the FY18/19 years to support Members in their Membership applications

Introduce Performance Related Grants All Members of RLIF were audited for the first time in 2018 against KPIs
Target 2 additional G20 Nations for Development The USA has been identified as one of those G20 Nations and has been provisionally been awarded the 2025 RLWC

A Test match England v New Zealand has been scheduled for June 23 2018 in Denver.  This is the first of 3 planned matches

The NRL has let its broadcast rights to Fox Sports for distribution via streaming in the US

The RLIF has received a proposal for a domestic competition in the US potentially starting in 2020/21

Provide context to International matches A Pacific Championships is in early draft form as part of the broader calendar

RLWC21 qualifiers have been agreed and funded

Rankings are now clear and on the RLIF website

The details of NZ to UK, Lions to Pacific and Kangaroos to UK tours are being finalised as part of the broader calendar

Grow our supporter base


RLIF website has been redeveloped and relaunched

CEO has initiated twice yearly newsletters to all Members

2017 RLWC introduced fan zones in host cities

Enhance neutrality and global consistency of Regulations, Officiating and Laws A common global manual has been introduced for all Members

The Laws of the Game have been copyrighted

APRLF and RLEF have agreed a common understanding for developing officials

Enhance image of RLIF and the sport


Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) praised RLIF for quality of Commonwealth Championships

CGF and RLWC embraced very successful Women’s, Disability and Wheelchair events

Targeted investment programmes are included in 2018 budget

Improvement in performance of Pacific Nations in RLWC17 demonstrated the success of developing players within Major Leagues

Revision of eligibility regulations created a more competitive World Cup

The RLIF Board is currently undertaking a Governance Review aimed at enhancing and modernising governance and administration of the game globally

Create long term broadcaster and sponsorship agreements BBC and Fiji TV contracted for 2021

Website relaunch achieved

Enhance reserves of top tier nations and RLIF


While returns from RLWC17 fell short of target and are still subject to further discussion with the hosts, tender processes for 2021 and 2025 RLWC delivered guaranteed bids with 2021 delivered a 50% increase on bid price for 2017 RLWC plus broadcasting

Tender process for 2022 and 2025 has delivered an even more substantial offer for that cycle

In order to accelerate its work, the RLIF is increasing its capacity with the imminent appointment of two key positions – GM Southern Hemisphere based in Australia and GM RLIF Operations based in the UK.  Nigel will expand on this in his update to you later this week.  We are concerned however that while RLWC17 was a terrific success on the field and in broadcast ratings, it has generated less funds than targeted.  This is still subject to further negotiation with the hosts, Australia and New Zealand.  Whatever the outcome, it places more emphasis on finalising a second global event and driving RLIF broadcast and commercial revenues around a rolling calendar our partners can commit to.


In the next period the key items your Board and Executive will be focused on are:

  • The Governance Review aimed at modernising and enhancing governance and administration through the three governing bodies, RLIF, RLEF and APRLC, and their respective Constitutions such that it is best practice amongst international sports. This review is likely to recommend independence as an element of board composition, alignment of Constitutions so that the three entities work together as one and one readily accountable organisation structure that optimises the RLIF’s available but scarce resources.  The Board expects to put recommendations to Members for consideration and, if found acceptable, adoption at the November 2018 AGM
  • Given the success of the Pacific nations in RLWC17 and the need to maintain momentum in this region, we are seeking to strengthen the APRLC organisation and Board so that it can be an active leader and contributor to continuing growth in Asia Pacific
  • A rolling 5 year calendar including a second global tournament in 2019, a new Pacific Championships to parallel the RLEF’s European Cup, a NZ Kiwis tour of the UK and France in 2018, a British Lions Tour of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific in 2019, an Australian Kangaroos tour of the UK and France in 2020, and RLWC21. With your help the calendar will also include bilateral matches Members play
  • A review of the RLIF Global Strategy and inclusion of a data and digital strategy
  • Following some complexity in scheduling the 23 June Test match between New Zealand and England, a review of the RLIF Rules in relation to international match sanctioning.

However as with every governing body as you would all know, the day to day is somewhat unpredictable and certain to occupy significant portions of the time available.  Our job, all of us, is to make sure we keep our eye on our strategic direction while simultaneously dealing with what is directly in front of us.  I wish all of you good fortune for the rest of the year and look forward to catching up with those of you who can make it to the AGM in early November.


Kind regards

John Grant


Rugby League International Federation