22 Oct 2015

NRL CEO resigns

11:40 am on 22 October 2015

Dave Smith has stepped down as NRL chief executive after three polarising years at the head of league's richest competition.

The Wales-born former banker will finish his contract at the end of November John Grant, the Australian Rugby League Commission chairman, will take over on an interim basis, the NRL said in a statement.

NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith

NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A private recruitment firm will search for a replacement for Smith, who was a surprise choice to succeed David Gallop in 2013 and wore criticism for his handling of rights negotiations with broadcasters this year.

In August, Smith trumpeted a new five-year $990 million deal with free-to-air host broadcaster Channel Nine for 2018-22 broadcasting rights, having snubbed Rupert Murdoch's pay-TV unit Fox Sports from negotiations.

Smith walks away with the pay-TV and digital rights components unsettled, and with the NRL facing an uphill task to match the record deal struck by the AFL.

Smith, however, talked up his record in a statement, saying it was time for someone fresh to carry on his legacy.

Lacking any background in the sport, Smith took up the post as the league struggled with the biggest doping crisis in its history and was quickly derided for a number of public gaffes, including mis-naming a top player at his first season launch.

However, Smith worked hard to improve the image of a competition which had long tolerated ugly on-field violence and off-field scandal.

After a controversial brawl in the annual State of Origin series between New South Wales and Queensland in 2013, Smith instituted a 'one punch and you're off' rule, ensuring that players who let fly would be automatically sent to the sin-bin.

The policy was slammed by purists but changed the complexion of the game in one fell swoop.

- Reuters

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