The South Sydney Rabbitohs have paid tribute to CEO Shane Richardson and his 11 years of service to the Club following his announcement that he is moving into a new role as Head of Game Strategy and Development at the National Rugby League. The Club also announced that John Lee will become the new Chief Executive Officer of the South Sydney Football Club.

Mr Lee will begin his tenure with the Rabbitohs on Monday 9 February in a seamless transition for the Club with Mr Richardson remaining at the Rabbitohs until he starts his new role at the NRL on Monday 2 March.

Mr Richardson will complete his time as CEO of the Rabbitohs after almost 11 years, a period in the Club’s history in which he helped deliver unprecedented growth in commercial areas off the field, the change in ownership structure of the Club introducing private investment, the beginning of the process for the development of the Club’s High Performance Community Centre at Heffron Park in Maroubra, a clear vision for the future of the Foundation Club, and the Club’s 21st Premiership in 2014.

Mr Richardson, the longest serving CEO amongst the NRL CEOs group since first being appointed as Chief Executive of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in 1993 and the only NRL CEO to take two clubs from wooden spoons to premierships during his tenure, made the decision to shift to the governing body to work under NRL CEO Dave Smith in this newly created role.

Under Mr Richardson’s stewardship at the Rabbitohs:

  • the Club’s Membership base has grown to more than 30,000 Members generating revenues of over $3.7 million annually;
  • corporate sponsorship has lifted to over $7.4 million annually;
  • merchandise revenues were in excess of $3.5 million in 2014;
  • he led the establishment and growth of the South Cares charitable organisation which has taken the Rabbitohs’ connection to their communities and those in need to new heights;
  • the Club began work and sourced funding for the building of a $25 million High Performance Community Centre which will bring all aspects of the South Sydney Football Club and South Cares, an organisation of which Mr Richardson is a Director, under the one roof;
  • the Club has achieved record levels of media value and digital media growth;
  • the Club has developed first-in-class systems in corporate governance and accounting which has led to total revenues of over $27 million and net profits of almost $2 million in 2014; and
  • the Club has a world-class football set up which delivered the Club’s record 21st Premiership in 2014.

Mr Lee will be shifting from his current role as the CEO of the Casinos and Resorts Australasia to take the position of CEO with the Rabbitohs.

Mr Lee joins the Club having previously held senior roles in both the private and public sector in New South Wales. This included CEO of Sydney Buses, NSW Department of Commerce and the Tourism and Transport Forum.

While performing these roles, Mr Lee has always maintained a strong interest and involvement in sport and the NRL.

His specific sporting administration and related experience includes:

·        Australian Sports Commissioner, which overseas the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport)

·        Board Member of the North Queensland Cowboys,

·        Chair of the Australian Sports Media Awards judging panel,

·        Conducted a review of the Australian – European Training Centre in Versace on behalf of the Australian Government to better utilise the infrastructure;

·        Trustee of the Parramatta Stadium from 2003-2009;

As far as Rugby League experience is concerned, Mr Lee has been an active member of the Board of the North Queensland Cowboys. Early in his career he worked in various positions under Jack Gibson at the Cronulla Sharks including Head Trainer and Conditioner. He later coached at Parramatta winning a premiership with the Eels SG Ball team.

South Sydney Rabbitohs Chairman, Nicholas Pappas, paid tribute to the role Mr Richardson has played over the past 11 years, and welcomed Mr Lee to the Club.

“Shane has overseen the transformation of our Club from one of the cellar dwellers to what is arguably the benchmark of not only our sport, but all sporting organisations in the country,” Mr Pappas said.

“His tireless efforts and his passionate approach to the running of this Club for over ten years will never be forgotten by those who hold the Rabbitohs close to their hearts, and his achievements at this Club are many and varied.

“This is a culmination of over a decade of service to South Sydney, and ‘Richo’ leaves as a great friend of the Club and a great friend personally to many people who are connected with the Rabbitohs.

“We know he will do a great job at the NRL and we look forward to working with him in his new position with the governing body.”

Mr Pappas said of Mr Lee’s appointment: “We are excited that someone of John’s calibre will be joining our organisation and look forward to continued success and growth under his stewardship.

“He will be stepping into some big shoes and as a Board and on behalf of the investors, we’re very confident that John is the right man for the job.

“I’m sure all of our Members will join me in welcoming him to the Rabbitohs family.”

Mr Richardson leaves the Club with fond memories, knowing the Club is heading in the right direction.

“I’ve really loved my time with the Rabbitohs and it’s a period in my life that I will never forget,” Mr Richardson said.

“There has been some highs and lows throughout my ten-plus years with the Club, but that feeling after the Grand Final last year made everything we did worthwhile.

“I want to thank the Board, the investors, the team, the coaches, the administration staff, the corporate partners and most importantly the Members for making the past decade what it was, and I’m so happy to have played a part in helping South Sydney win the Club’s 21st Premiership and to see the joy on the faces of all the people I mentioned earlier.

“The Club is in a great position both on and off the field and I feel as though it’s time for me to hand the reins to John to take the Club on the next part of its journey.

“I’m after a new challenge and I feel the role I will be taking on at the NRL is perfect for my skill set and for the next stage of my career.

“Since starting my connection with Rugby League in the Kilcoy under sixes, I’ve got fifty years of experience in the game at all levels that I can bring to this new role and I’m really looking forward to this new adventure.”

Mr Lee said he is excited by the opportunity to join the Rabbitohs.

“Shane Richardson, together with the board, staff, investors and Members, have created something special here at the South Sydney club,” Mr Lee said.

“Two preliminary finals and a premiership in the last three years, together with the largest and most passionate Membership base in the NRL, says to me there are many good things being done well here at South Sydney.

“I appreciate this is a very important role for the Members, investors and the community. I am excited by the opportunity and will work hard every day to build systematic and repeatable success.

“I’m really looking forward to this exciting opportunity of joining the Rabbitohs and working with the Board, the investors, the staff, and Michael Maguire and his team.

“Having met with the key people involved in this business I see a great future for the Club and I can’t wait to be a part of that.

“I’m looking forward to coming on board in the next couple of weeks, working closely with Shane and Nick over the three week handover period, and then forge ahead into the 2015 season.”