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Parramatta Leagues Club administrator Max Donnelly says that even if members vote down his proposed constitution he is never going to change his stance on how the first board is appointed and claims the regulator wouldn’t allow him to, anyway.

Tomorrow night at the Novotel Hotel in Parramatta from 7pm, Parramatta Leagues Club members will vote on whether they accept a new constitution put forward by Donnelly, who currently runs the club as an administrator.

Last year, Donnelly tried to pass through what he described as a “model constitution”. However, guidelines and processes that aimed to ensure that board candidates met strict eligibility criteria, and which also prevented past ghosts from returning, raised the ire of some members and the initial constitution - which requires a 75 per cent mandate in its favour - was voted down.

A further period of member consultation led to Donnelly watering down the eligibility criteria and the power of the nominations committee to vet candidates, and it is believed that has led to many of the constitution’s former opponents agreeing to back the new proposal.

Indeed, it appears the only remaining sticking point is how the first board is appointed, with some members remaining adamant that an open election should decide its initial make-up. Indeed, a petition was circulated by former Chairman Roy Spagnola in recent months, with the stated goal of dismissing Donnelly and immediate replacing him with seven-elected directors. It appears that effort failed to generate sufficient interest to go forward.

However, Donnelly is adamant that the first board must be appointed via a merit-based selection process.

“That’s one thing, I won’t and can’t move on. ILGA (the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority) has said to me, get the new constitution in place, make sure the club is in good hands, and then we’ll retire you,” he told 1Eye Eel.

“So that’s what I want to do. Get the constitution changed tomorrow night, and then appoint the best board that I can so I can then be retired.”

“ILGA isn’t going to retire me [if they don't’ have confidence in the first board], so it’s just not going to work to have an election.”

Once the initial board is appointed, the voting will then move to a triennial process, where approximately a third of the board goes up for election each year. Donnelly said this was accepted as best process and ensured consistency and stability at board-level.

“When you’re in the middle of doing something significant like building a hotel and leisure facilities, to have your entire board replaced overnight is a recipe for disaster.”

“When you have biennial elections and you’ve only got two years, the board ends up in their second year, spending the whole time just trying to get re-elected. In a triennial, two or three may go out, but the rest of the board continues on.”

Donnelly said triennials also took factionalism out of elections. “When you have people going for seven spots, you end up with factions running, when you have just two people up for election, the most you can have is a faction of two.”

Donnelly urged Parramatta Leagues Club members who had three-year voting rights to make the effort to get to the Novotel in Parramatta. He promised the doors would not be shut at 7pm and that people would be allowed in, right up to the moment of voting.

He said the last member consultation meeting had been positive and generated useful and constructive dialogue, and he hoped that given the concessions made, that members would now allow the new constitution to pass.

In other points made in questions put forward from 1Eyed Eel members, he said:

  • In the case of a casual vacancy, directors would appoint the next director, but that a temporary director would have to stand at the next election.
  • At this point, he does not see the possibility of legislative change forcing through a constitution. It would require legislative changes that would be opposed by ClubsNSW. The clear preference is for members to accept a constitution developed after a long period of member consultation but still modelled on boardroom best practices.
  • In relation to a question about his fees, and his role at the club, Donnelly said: “I can assure members, I am doing my best to get constitutional change through so that I can retire”.

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As much as I believe in Max's reforms, this remains our greatest problem. The football club is owned by an entity 90% of whose members don't particularly care about the football club. The only people who really care about what is happening with the Leagues Club are those that care about the Football Club. 

But those that care about the Football Club largely cannot be trusted with the election of the board members of either club.

There are many times when I despair for the future of our club.

If I had my way, I would have the Leagues Club at least majority, if not entirely divest itself of the Football Club. But the footy club would be insolvent within a year if that happened.

I was wondering the very samething a few years back and wondered why the football club wasn't seperate from the leagues club.

Being able to stand up on its own 2 feet.From a distance there looks like there's too many chefs in the kitchen and nothing gets done.

Surely they the football club have to look at this as an option.Maybe not right away but the Sooners the better to keep away from the sway of the leagues club who are there chief funders it seems.

Actually the reforms put in place have already mostly solved this problem. As much as I want constitutional reform for the Leagues Club as well to complete the process, what we achieved with structural separation from the Football Club has already essentially protected the football operations from this ongoing factionalism issue that continues to plague the Leagues Club. Nothing of what happened last night, really affects football in anyway, because the football board is independent and mostly protected from the LC shenanigans. It really runs as a wholly owned, fully-funded, independent entity which is pretty much the ideal situation. Of course, the flipside of that is members get stuff-all say, but from being a champion of member advocacy at a football level, until the madness is resolved, that's most certainly a good thing.

So in reality when these reforms are eventually passed, members will still only have minimal and indirect say over the composition of the footy club board, via the two LC nominees to the FC board.

Or will the LC board have a say over the members of the nominations committee for the FC board ?

Phil. Good reply and I for one understand that the current situation has its benefits, your last sentence regarding the flipside is also the biggy for me.

Once, and therein lies a bit of the problem once the PLC constitution is resolved and I hope I live long enough for that, then I am firmly of the belief that there should be a membership option for the Football club, while maybe not the same as the old one but one whereby supporters can join and have some input into the club.

It would be unwieldy if it was linked with the season ticket membership though, but then again how many of those who sign up and pay big money to be a member and get seats to watch the eels at the home games would be worried anyway?

Thank you for the clarity.

John i am one who couldn’t go- i am a fair way away and had something for work on. This is a classic reason why voting via mail etc should have been done a while ago.

I am not eligible yet for voting but should be next year, as we move house end of this month and its a long drive down I was not really able to go, but certainly hope that if I can vote next year then I will be going.

There would be a higher turn out if it were run on a weekend and in this day and age there should also be a feed streaming to the Dundas club to at least try to get as many people as possible. 

Does anyone know if a vote like this could be run like the elections were or does a vote involving constitutional change need to be run at the AGM?

In the past the meetings were changed to daylight hours on weekends and it made not a scrap of difference to those who would attend the meetings.

Really 81paling, you couldn't travel from Dundas to Parramatta to vote. I travelled from the central Coast to Parramatta to vote. Must admit it was a long trip home in the train on my own after we failed to get the new constitution implemented.

You're a champion John for making the trek down. Was good to say hello!


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