Melbourne Storm’s CEO-in-waiting Mark Evans says rugby league does not have to fight tooth and nail with the AFL in Victoria and, instead, sport as a whole should be trying to attract people away from other leisure pursuits.
In his first interview since being tapped by the club’s potential new owners to take over from chief executive Ron Gauci, the high-profile English rugby union administrator has outlined how he became involved, what stage takeover talks have reached and his initial impressions of the Australian sports scene.
Asked if was ready to roll up his sleeves and battle AFL, Evans said: ”No, I don’t think so. I think it’s about doing a good job yourself as a sport and competition. If you do that, nine times out of 10 people will come and watch.
”When I was in Australia recently, I noticed some cultural differences. In the UK, sport sees itself as a competitor with other leisure activities, like going to the cinema or whatever. You rarely have sports saying, ‘We have to keep ahead of … ‘ and name another sport. In most markets, rugby league and rugby union are not really competitors. Australia might be a bit different in that regard. Melbourne is different in that there are nine AFL clubs, rugby league, rugby union and two soccer clubs. But you just have to do your own job well and if you do that hopefully enough people will do what you want them to.”
Evans declined to comment on the identity of the London-based consortium that approached him to run the Storm but said he had initially conducted an informal, in-person assessment of the NRL and world premiers for the group before agreeing to become chief executive.
He added the sale of the club remained imminent. ”It’s close but not done,” he said.
The former chief executive of Harlequins and Saracens, and a consultant for this year’s Rugby League World Cup, Evans said Melbourne was a ”wonderful place” but he would not leave his London-based consultancy without regrets. “It’s not Somalia, is it?” he said when asked about the lifestyle change. ”This is an opportunity … it came out of the blue,” he said.