6 Apr 2024


International Rugby League Chair Troy Grant has welcomed the appointment of distinguished sports administrators Bernie Gurr and Joe Kelly to the United States Association of Rugby League (USARL) Board as Independent Directors.

Gurr is a former CEO of the Sydney Roosters and Parramatta Eels who began his sports administrative career in the United States as director of finance for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and now resides in California.

Kelly is the current Sydney Roosters CEO, who previously held the role with Manly Sea Eagles after stints in executive positions with South Sydney Rabbitohs and Chelsea Football Club.

The appointment of Gurr and Kelly marks a significant milestone in the USARL's ongoing efforts to enhance governance and advance the growth of rugby league in the United States.


Sydney Roosters CEO Joe Kelly has joined the USARL Board

Gurr and Kelly will join a new USARL board elected earlier this year following the completion of a lengthy and extensive governance reform process which coincided with the NRL's foray into North America.    

IRL Chair Troy Grant said: “I initiated the USARL governance reform to ensure that a critical market and exciting country was being run properly to maximise on the potential for rugby league in the US.

“[ARLC Chair] Peter V'landys' and the NRL’s Las Vegas initiative couldn’t have occurred at a better time to accelerate that re-birth and it's been an amazing success.

“With the appointment of these two outstanding independent directors to the USARL board it’s the final piece to ensure the United States has a bright rugby league future. 

“What was a fractured state of rugby league in America now has the chance to thrive thanks to Bernie and Joe's appointments, with the new USARL board members to be united in all things, including prosperity.”

Following an internal assessment of the newly appointed USARL Board of Directors, a comprehensive search process began for two Independent Directors, with the release of a call for applications on February 23.

The USARL Board of Directors established a committee tasked with identifying top candidates with expertise in corporate governance, C suite experience, legal expertise in sports and non-profit, and a deep understanding of the sports industry, particularly rugby league.

"We had an abundance of highly qualified candidates apply for the open positions," said Matt Goschnick, member of the USARL Board of Directors and search committee member. 

"The depth of expertise and desire to help grow rugby league demonstrated by each applicant was truly impressive and we look to continue to involve good people to support the growth of rugby league in the US.

"The appointment of Bernie and Joe to the board is a significant step forward and will greatly benefit the entire organization as their contributions will bring strong foundations and frameworks to help drive our goals forward."

Gurr, who was CEO of Sydney Roosters for a decade from 1995 and had charge of Parramatta for three years from 2016,  expressed his enthusiasm for joining the USARL Board.


Bernie Gurr brings a wealth of experience to the USARL Board

"I am extremely pleased to have been appointed as an Independent Director of the USARL," he said.

"With the recent governance changes, the USARL is well-positioned to make considerable progress on its mission to grow the game of Rugby League in the USA. I look forward to working with my fellow Directors and all stakeholders of the USARL."

Kelly, who has been CEO of Sydney Roosters since 2017, aims to facilitate closer relations between the USARL and the NRL, who have committed to a five year plan to play matches and develop the game in North America.

"It is an incredible privilege to be approached and nominated by the USARL Board to join them as an Independent Director," Kelly said.

"The US rugby league market should not be underestimated and hopefully through my roles at both the Sydney Roosters and USARL, I can assist to support engagement between the two governing bodies to grow the game in the US.”

USARL Director and search committee member Miranda Barnard said Gurr and Kelly were expected to provide valuable contributions in advancing the mission and vision of the organization.

"We are pleased to welcome two gentlemen that boast expertise in areas that are the Board's primary focus," Barnard said.

"The growth of Rugby League within the United States is undeniable as the domestic season is looking to triple in annual USARL individual memberships; leveraging the knowledge of both Bernie and Joe will allow the NGB to accelerate the existing efforts."