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NRL warning as Parramatta officials win stay of execution

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NRL integrity unit boss Nick Weeks says Parramatta’s salary cap crisis is proof that clubs who attempt to work outside rugby league’s salary cap will be caught, sooner or later.

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After Canterbury, Melbourne and the Warriors before them, the Eels are the latest club to be disgraced after being caught cheating the NRL’s competition equalising mechanism.

The Eels have been stripped of all 12 competition points they have accrued thus far in 2016 and fined $1 million.

Weeks said the Eels had exceeded the cap by $570,000 already this year and have blown it out by $3 million since 2013.

The NRL’s investigations into the Eels and the subsequent sanctions were a warning to all clubs thinking of circumventing the rules, Weeks said.

“The thing with the salary cap is that where there is a system like we believe to have occurred here [at Parramatta] on a large scale the prospect of it coming out is pretty high,” Weeks said.

“I think most clubs understand that… this might be a message to other clubs that they need to be compliant and careful in their salary cap practices.

“The system is reasonably effective. We have a salary cap auditor, he has a team, and when we are put on notice there might be a breach of the rules we will go and investigate and that is what we have done here.”

Despite the extent of the NRL’s sanctions, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg admitted the saga was bad for the image of rugby league.

“It is not good for us, we have had nine good rounds and memberships and [TV] ratings are at an all time high. Rugby league is absolutely in tremendous shape.

“I didn’t want this day to come, but our duty is represent the best interests of the game.”

Parramatta have accused the NRL of imposing sanctions “without according procedural fairness” after the club secured a temporary court order preventing the league from banning five officials yesterday.

As part of a series of measures for breaking the salary cap by $3 million since 2013, the NRL sought to deregister Eels chairman Steven Sharp, football manager Daniel Anderson, chief executive John Boulous and fellow officials Tom Issa and Peter Serrao.

But the NSW Supreme Court late on Tuesday issued an injunction against the NRL permitting the five to stay – for now.

“The notices about competition points deduction, fine and suspensions that were issued today by the NRL to the club and its officials were done in circumstances where the NRL has appeared to impose sanctions without according procedural fairness,” the Eels said last night in a statement.

“The club has sought from the beginning of this process particulars of allegations including adverse material relied upon and a proper opportunity to respond.

“The club, its board and staff will be reviewing very carefully the notices that have been issued by the NRL in the coming days in order to respond to matters including, if necessary, seeking further details in relation to allegations.

“It is regrettable that the NRL determined to make a public statement about these matters and impose penalties without hearing from the club first.”

The Eels, who were also docked their 12 competition points accrued during the 2016 season, called on the NRL to use “procedural fairness” before any final decisions were made.

At yesterday’s NRL announcement, Greenberg stressed the findings were preliminary and the club and officials would be given a reasonable time to respond to the proposed penalties.

He said the NRL would only make a final determination on whether the preliminary findings were justified and the proposed penalties, once it had considered the responses of the club and the officials.

“The nature of these preliminary findings is such that the club has a final opportunity to do so and we will consider the club’s response with an open mind… it’s important that everyone understands that we will not reach a final view on either conduct or sanctions until the club and the officials have had a chance to respond,” Greenberg said.

The case will return to court on Friday.

-AAP

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