Russell Crowe’s decision to sell his stake in the South Sydney’s Rabbitohs has raised some criticism from sceptics as to the benefit his ownership brought the team, and now the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Club. However,the Bunnies’ Chief Executive Shane Richardson said that Crowe ceasing to be co-owner would have no detrimental impact. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out the myriad of benefits Crowe’s association with the team has delivered. The article said that it has been ‘widely acknowledged’ that Crowe’s involvement is behind the team’s ‘enviable list’ of sponsors, and has attracted world-class players including Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis. The latest transaction that Crowe landed his team was a major sponsorship deal with the glamorous new Sydney casino, the Star, as well as attracting the likes of Tom Cruise and ‘other A-grade celebrities to the footy.’ Richardson stated that there is no need for concern regarding a loss of publicity for the team, as the club’s sponsorship deals have been ‘signed for the next two years’. Despite the remarkable success of the team under Crowe’s ownership (including $6 million in annual sponsorship, 22,000 members and average crowds of over 18,000 at home matches), Fairfax reported well known concerns about the difficulty of making money out of privately owned rugby league clubs.
The risks of privatising club licenses in the NRL have been a subject of debate following the financial demise of several clubs over the years including, most recently, the Newcastle Knights. Notwithstanding such risks there are many high profile sports administrators who remain in support of privatisation. Ex-NRL Head and now Chairman of Venues NSW, John Quayle was reported by SBS television as emphasising the importance of managing this risk by installing bank guarantees as a condition of all NRL club licenses.
Quayle said the game's governing body the ARL Commission, needed to ensure that such strict restrictions continued to be a condition of private ownership. "That guarantee means the club's future is secure. The NRL needs to ensure that each time a licence is handed over it is done so with similar guarantees in place."