SYDNEY (AFP) — Russell Crowe's Hollywood film commitments may have impacted on his struggling rugby league outfit the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the club's new chief executive admitted on Tuesday.
Shane Richardson, who succeeded Peter Holmes a Court, denied speculation that the Oscar-winning Crowe had forced his co-owner to step down from the role.
But he suggested Crowe's long periods away filming had harmed his relationship with Holmes a Court, and the millionaire businessman felt he had "carried the flag" in his partner's absence.
"I think that the situation has been that Russell has been away for a long period of time," Richardson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"He has had back-to-back films over the last 12 to 15 months."
Richardson, while insisting he was not criticising the Hollywood tough-guy, said the Rabbitohs needed strong management.
The club have slumped to the bottom of Australia's National Rugby League table and their sole win this season came when Crowe was there to cheer on his players.
"I'm not critical at all, in fact, it's great to have him back," Richardson said.
"It's never a negative when Russell Crowe's there.
"What we've got to do though, is we've got to concentrate on the fact that we've got a business to run and we've got to run it properly.
"It doesn't matter who you are, whether you are the prime minister or Russell Crowe, you've still to run a business properly."
Crowe hit back at reports that the club, which he and Holmes a Court bought for 3.0 million dollars (2.9 million US) two years ago, was in turmoil.
"The reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated," he said.
Richardson also played down talk of a rift between Crowe and Holmes a Court.
"I can only see it from what happened. Peter has always talked to me about stepping down," he said.
Holmes a Court, who will remain as a director and "long-term shareholder" in the club, said in a statement he was proud of his work with the Rabbitohs who last year made it to the finals for the first time in 18 years.
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