Board election exposes some quirky rules

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Panthers have recently held their biennial Board elections with sensational results.

Undisputed club legend John Farragher has secured a spot, which is unsurprising given his many decades of service to the Club and the fact that he is so well regarded in the community.

In a somewhat shocking development, of the six candidates standing for the five Board positions, it was chairman Dave O’Neill who failed to secure the requisite number of votes to retain his position. He has not only lost his spot as chairman, but has missed on a board position altogether.

There have been mixed reactions from the community following the results. Very few people dispute the unique mix of experience and service that someone like John Farragher brings to the board, however others have expressed some confusion about how the Chairman of an incumbent NRL premiership winning club could lose his position absent a controversy of some sort.

Ultimately it comes down to simple numbers. We have taken a look at the club’s Constitution and Board elections are essentially a ‘first past the post’ contest whereby the candidates with the most number of votes win. O’Neill simply got less votes than the other candidates – or the others got more, depending on how you look at it.

The Panthers’ Constitution also contains some quirky rules that say that candidates and/or members of the Club are prohibited from actively campaigning for the election of any particular candidate, or promoting themselves with things like media advertisements and handing out ‘how to vote’ cards at the Club is expressly out of the question.

It is a curious state of affairs when a person seeking election to a Board of Directors cannot even explain to members why they would be a suitable choice and ask for their vote. The result is that the election essentially relies on every day members being sufficiently engaged with the management of the Club to research candidates themselves and get out and vote.

It is thought that these rules were put in place following the “footy five” controversy of the early 2000s that saw an unstable board break into factions to overthrow then General Manager, Roger Cowan and install new, more likeminded directors.

Under Penrith’s Constitution, directors of the Football Club board are automatically appointed to the Leagues Club board and vice versa.

Like any corporate entity the Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the management of the Club. In the context of an NRL Club like Panthers this includes everything from the financial performance of the Leagues Club, including things like poker machine and other revenue, management of hospitality and other offerings within the Club, development of Club properties (e.g. ESQ and the to be constructed convention centre) and most recently the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new look board has a breadth of business and commercial experience with names like Hicks, Wearn, Mulock and Co synonymous with long term successful businesses in the local area. There is plenty of talent remaining in the ranks to choose a new Chairman.

The Club can now look forward to a Board of Directors with a unique personal touch as well in Club stalwart John Farragher who has interacted with more Club members over the years than this columnist has had hot meals – and that’s saying something.

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