Manly CEO Tim Cleary has spoken for the first time about the controversial overhaul that has put him at loggerheads with club icon Bob Fulton, revealing he is seeking the authority to make changes to the football department in order to take the Sea Eagles into a new era.
Cleary succeeded Joe Kelly as the chief executive at the start of the year and is seeking to build a team that shares his vision for the Silvertails. One of the first casualties in the rejig is Fulton’s daughter, Kristie, who was working on junior development before shifting into a more commercial role. This has put Cleary offside with football boss Fulton, with observers believing the issue has the potential to ignite another civil war at Brookvale.
Cleary said there was an “impasse” between himself and management over whether his jurisdiction included making further changes to the football department, which employs Fulton and other members of his family. He was hoping the issue would be resolved as he sought to implement his blueprint for the franchise, which included a centre of excellence and the redevelopment of home ground Lottoland.
“As part of my plan to get to where I’m going, I need to put my team in place,” Cleary told Fairfax Media. “I hope that people would gauge that I am trying to strengthen the governance of the club for years to come. It’s pretty frequent in club land that coaches and [administrators] put in the teams they need to support their models of what success looks like. I need to make sure [the right] people are in those positions. They need to be competitive and put to the market and tested. That’s what all good governance is about, making sure the best people are in the best positions.”
The Sea Eagles have churned through seven chief executives in the post-Northern Eagles era. The latest development has raised fears that Cleary could be the latest through a revolving door that has claimed Joe Kelly, David Perry, Grant Mayer, Graham Lowe, Paul Cummings and Ian Thomson since reformation.
Asked if he could work with Fulton, Cleary said: “That’s a question you’d have to ask him.
“There are other precedents where family members come and go from clubs, others stay. That’s not unheard of. I’m not putting a line in the sand saying it’s me or him. I’m not doing that. I’m just saying that as CEO I have the capacity to deliver the governance across the brand, not just as the CEO of the administration. Therein lies the issue.
“It’s an iconic brand, it’s lasted the test of time and so has Bob. I’ve got the ultimate respect for him, he’s an Immortal, he’s been at the club for over 50 years. He’s been an Australian coach and player, he’s just done everything and ticked every box.
“Whether I can sustain myself into the future and if I am to represent the future at least I need a mandate to put in those people, policies and practices that will take us into the future.
“If I can modernise the place and work practices – and whether Bob is a part of that – he will determine that, not me.”
Cleary said he believed he would have the support of the Penn family to make the required changes.
“I’m looking at the whole structure of the organisation to ensure it is viable into the future so the place can provide a culture of success and a happy future for everyone involved,” he said. “There are a lot of people involved, not just me or a family. It’s an iconic brand that has been going for a long time and it needs to have a future.”
Fulton declined to comment when contacted last night.