Rugby Canada cleans house

There were sweeping changes at the Rugby Canada board level Monday as a slate of reformers led by former national team coach Pat Parfrey took over and the current president and acting CEO resigned.

Monday's annual general meeting followed months of dissension in the ranks highlighted by the firing of national team coach David Clark and an ensuing strike by elite players that forced the cancellation of a Test match against world champion Australia and high-profile tours to Ireland and Scotland.

"A clear mandate was provided by the provinces to move on and deal with the issues in Rugby Canada with the new set of faces and a new direction," said Parfrey, a St. John's kidney specialist who stepped down as national team coach after the 1999 World Cup.

"There has been an unseemly degree of divisiveness in the community over the last number of months and I think everybody who was there (at the AGM) was keen that there would be a new start and a new direction."

The election of the so-called "agents of change" Monday prompted some immediate moves.

The new board decided 8-1 to revisit the firing of Clark.

Parfrey and the players believed Clark was unjustly fired, for his vocal campaign for change within Rugby Canada rather than for his work as a coach.

The firing of Clark cost cash-strapped Rugby Canada a year's salary under terms of his contract and should he return as coach, which now seems likely, that settlement would go towards his salary for the next year.

Should Clark return -- a decision is expected within two weeks -- he will have much work to do.

While immensely popular with his players, Clark will have to kick-start a team that has not played since July.

And the national team schedule got a little lighter recently when the International Rugby Board announced that the Pacific Rim competition has been postponed indefinitely.

With World Cup qualifying set to open a year from now, the national team has little room for error.

In all, there were six new faces and one returning director after Monday's vote, which represents almost a total house-cleaning.

Only two members of the nine voting members of the board remain.

Parfrey and his slate of former national team captain Hans DeGoede, current Canadian international Heather Wilson and Toronto businessman Tim Sinclair all won office in a ballot of provincial representatives.

Parfrey was named president and Sinclair, treasurer.

Acting CEO Graham Baldwin, president Barry Giffen and Iain Taylor all resigned their seats on the board.

Giffen quit before the vote while Baldwin resigned afterwards.

Taylor quit at the ensuing meeting of the new board.

Treasurer Robert Jenkins and Frederick Pierrestiger, whose terms were up, withdrew their names from the ballot prior to the vote.

Alan Sharp, Canada's longtime representative to the International Rugby Board, also resigned effective Dec. 31.

Other members gaining places on the board are Christina Flores, who won re-election, Jay Johnston and Roger Smith.

They join existing members Mike O'Connor and Frank Deacy. T

here are also two players' representatives: Mike Holmes and Natascha Wesch.

The departure of Giffen, Taylor and Robert Jenkins, the former treasurer, means that all three members of the powerful executive committee are gone.

The new board followed up on some work by is predecessors, setting up business units for the national men's and women's teams and the junior men's team.

But of those three, only the unit for the men's team may survive since it was part of the platform of Parfrey's group, which wanted to set up its own business arm to market the marquee men's national team

The new board also decided, for the first time, to initiate an annual registration fee per senior player rather than per team.

The fee will be $35.

Parfrey is no stranger to the board.

He has served there before, but quit in 2000, upset at the level of vitriol.

By Neil Davidson