Dave Smith has quit as chief executive of the National Rugby League.
His contract with the NRL will finish up on November 30, at which time Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant will take over in an interim role.
Smith, a former banker from Wales, was a driving force in one of the biggest deals in Australian free-to-air TV history, worth up to $925 million in an agreement struck with Channel 9.
In August he, and the league, secured the rights to broadcast NRL matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at prime time and on Sunday at 4pm. The right agreement will take effect from 2018.
This deal, however, incurred the wrath of pay TV provider Foxtel. Its half-owner, News Corp, subsequently struck a six-year, $2.5 billion deal with the AFL, along with other media partners Telstra and the Seven Network.
In fact it was reported that Telstra was considering walking away from its 17-season long sponsorship deal with the league, following Smith’s blindside.
After promising a $1.7 billion payday for the code’s TV rights, many were questioning where the extra billion dollars would come from. Would Foxtel still play ball? And how much was Smith going to get back from a deal with the pay-TV provider?
Despite this Smith says it was entirely his decision to quit.
“It is simply a CEO resigning at the end of three big years,” he said.
“We have secured the biggest free to air broadcast deal in our history. A $1.6 billion for investment in rugby league stadiums and a financial platform that includes a sustainability fund of $50m and a surplus of $100m that is progressively being invested back into the game.”
Smith will be taking the summer off before making his next career move.
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