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Members likely to decide Rabbits' fate

Club vows to keep politics out of any privatisation vote. Report Jonathan Dart (SydneyCentral Courier 25th January 2006 page 5)

South Sydney football club members are likely to vote sometime in March on the bid by Peter Holmes a Court and Russell Crowe to privatise the Rabbitohs, following a pledge by its board and key members to keep any ballot open and fair.

A fortnight ago the football club board took an important step forward in the privatisation bid by sending to be checked over by its lawyers.

Providing that it is given a green light, chief executive Shane Richardson said the board will then decide whether to pass the issue on to a member vote. "The board has got to assess whether or not it's fit to be put to members – it doesn't mean they agree with it," he said. "I think what will happen is that if – and it is only an if – they decide to put it to members, then each individual board member could speak out on his behalf because I think it's a conscience vote."

Mr Richardson also said that he didn't want the board to influence the debate before members get to vote – the surest indication yet that the Rabbitohs' members will make the decisive choice on the issue.

This pledge was last week met by a similar assurance from the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU), which is widely thought to represent the most powerful faction among members.

CFMEU assistant State secretary Brian Parker said he would not use the union to form a bloc vote against the proposal, which would most likely lead to its defeat. For the privatisation proposal to be passed, it needs a supporting vote of 75 per cent of the estimated 3700 Rabbitohs members, which means that it could be turned down by less than 1000 voters.

"I'm not interested in any form of a bloc vote," Mr Parker said. "I don't think I hold a bloc vote – I think the story has been beaten up substantially. My intentions would be the best result for the club, not just for CFMEU members. I don't like to talk about bloc votes.

"I'd rather see that people take me on the views that I put out on the merit of what I stand for, and that's about working-class people having a say. We would rather be looked upon as being an organisation that is able to sit down and discuss issues and resolve them. I'd like my opportunity to sit down and talk to Russell and Peter Holmes a Court and tell them why I'm opposed to them taking over the club."

However, the fact that Mr Parker is openly opposing Peter Holmes a Court is an indication of the hard task the Sydney-based entrepreneur has in front of him.

Last November, Mr Holmes a Court openly came into conflict with a powerful faction of the Rabbitohs fraternity – including the CFMEU and club patriarch George Piggins – over the Redfern Oval redevelopment dispute.

Mr Holmes a Court said that he didn't see Redfern Oval as a viable future venue for the Rabbitohs, and has so far been unsuccessful in his attempt to act as a mediator between Mr Piggins and City of Sydney Council Lord Mayor Clover Moore.