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David Gallop: News Limited Stooge

June 5, 2012

It seems almost surreal that the biggest complement David Gallop has received is that he has brought stability to the game. In reality, there has hardly been a figure that has brought Rugby League so close to destruction. His first involvement in Rugby League was as Legal Affairs Manager for Super League  starting in 1995. The “Super League” being the breakaway competition formed by News Limited. Essentially, his role throughout was to act as News Limited’s lawyer. He was a central figure as News Limited moved to establish complete control over the game. At the first federal court trial, according to the SMH “Justice Burchett deliver[ed] a comprehensive victory for the ARL, described by lawyer Mark O’Brien as a 100-nil win. Among the findings were that the clubs were bound by loyalty agreements to the ARL, which owned the rights to club colours, logos, names and jerseys, and that both News Ltd and the Super League companies had acted with “dishonesty” and “duplicity”.

This point was the closest Rugby League has come since its inception to completely collapasing.The “war” was a complete disaster  for the sport , particularly financially for the clubs and even for News Limited itself. The Australian Financial Review  reported in 2005 that Super League cost them $560 million dollars. However, News Ltd did manage to achieve a fair few of their aims. After a year of the “rebel competition”, News Limited took an offer to the Australian Rugby League (ARL) so that they would co-run a competition, which was agreed to by the clubs of the ARL in a vote of 36 to 4. So, News Limited, after almost destroying the sport, emerged out the other side owning 50% of the sport and with a plump deal to broadcast the game on its pay TV network. Gallop continued on as the director of legal and business  affairs  in the newly formed National Rugby League.

Part of this role was to led the legal fight to justify the exclusion of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which had been in the competition since 1908. This led to an extraordinary public campaign against the decision, involving legal battles and mass rallies. Green Left Weekly reported at the time ‘An estimated 80,000 people marched from Redfern Oval to Sydney Town Hall on November 12 to demand the inclusion of the South Sydney “Rabbitohs” football team in the 2001 National Rugby League competition. The massive show of support followed a November 3 court decision that the NRL was within its rights to exclude Souths from the competition.”

Lyall Munroe, from the Metropolitan Land Council said at the rally ” “If the NRL is the protector of corporate power, then South Sydney is the protector of people’s power”

Even Television Presenter Ray Martin got in on the act, writing a stinging article in the Sun Herald, directed against Rupert Murdoch, which can be read here. Gallop, faithful as ever to News Limited, led the legal charge against the Rabbitohs. Ultimately, though he was unsuccessful. On appeal, the Federal Court found in favour of Souths and they were readmitted in 2002.

Gallop, though, was to be rewarded for his loyalty. The year after losing the court case, Gallop was appointed CEO of the NRL.

He served the News Limited agenda so well, that they reportedly made it a condition of handing over control of the game in 2012 to the “Rugby League Commission” that Gallop be given a new contract. Gallop quit four months into his new four-year deal.

In his time, Gallop also developed a reputation of being thin-skinned. After being booed by Melbourne fans last year (The NRL stripped Melbourne of two premierships for going over the salary cap the year before), he said “I never really go for that whole passion line. I mean, terrorists are passionate about what they do and, you know, that doesn’t make it right,” Comparing Melbourne fans to terrorists was surely not the best way to win over Melbourne fans. Instead of backtracking, initially, he took it further, telling a Brisbane radio station “”They were involved in large systematic cheating and those people who booed me yesterday, well, they obviously support the cheating that was going on.”

If there is one thing worse than a terrorist, it is a cheating terrorist. He did eventually sort-of apologise by saying ” “I was just using an extreme analogy and wasn’t trying to cause offence to anyone,”

People will say, however, that despite this the legacy he leave behind is a positive one. According to Gallop himself as reported by the SMH in 2007 “His proudest achievements are bringing the Titans into existence in the face of opposition and imposing restrictions on player payments”

5 years later, the Titans are on the brink of financial collapse and the salary cap has shown itself to encourage manipulation and cheating while restricting the earnings of players, who are the major reason the code has any financial value. In its own way, though,  it seems fitting that a bad investment and driving down wages are the lasting legacy of a proud News Limited stooge.

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