Melbourne Storm majority owner Bart Campbell says he is looking forward to giving back to a game that has been so good to him over the past three decades.
Story credit: Georgina Robinson, The Age.
The interesting part is he’s talking about rugby union. Although he is best known in Australia for his success as the long-serving chairman and private shareholder of one of Australia’s most successful NRL clubs, Campbell is poised to join the inner sanctum of international rugby.
"I’ve worked in the business of rugby for over 20 years and it’s been really good to me," Campbell told the Herald. "The opportunity to put a bit back into the game is appealing and if I can contribute anything I would really like to."
As a fixture of rugby league politics for the past seven years, since Campbell and a group of high-profile businessmen bought the Storm from News Corporation, the New Zealander was a shock inclusion in a list of nominees to World Rugby’s Executive Committee, the global governing body’s powerful decision-making group.
Moreover, his nominating union was New Zealand, not Australia, adding further intrigue to his rapid rise in the global game.
That development can be explained by Campbell’s steady infiltration of the New Zealand rugby establishment over the past two years.
A player agent by accident, who started out making enquiries on behalf of his brother-in-law, All Black Tabai Matson, Campbell spent 17 years in London at at the helm of sports management companies in three different guises, most recently as executive chairman of international juggernaut TLA Worldwide.
He moved to Melbourne and bought into the Storm in 2013 with partners Gerry Ryan and Matthew Tripp, who will take over as club chairman when Campbell steps down at the end of next month.
But two years ago the rugby connections came knocking. Impressed by his commercial experience and success with the Storm, New Zealand Rugby invited him to join their strategy board, then asked him to apply for a board position when one came up recently. He steps into that role this month but, with World Rugby elections looming in May and departed NZR chief executive Steve Tew vacating his executive committee seat, Kiwi powerbrokers saw Campbell as a well-credentialled replacement.
Unlike the career administrators and former Test stars that have historically populated the stuffy executive committee, Campbell's commercial background and years in the NRL could shake up the global governing body in the same was as Kean who, criminal history aside, would be the first person from an emerging nation to claim a seat at the big boys' table.
Campbell refused to talk up his experience but, with a background in talent management and 17 years' commercial experience outside the institutional tent, his skill-set could prove invaluable for a sport confronting a raft of issues.