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Decision on Sharks, Flanagan and Elkin

Decision on Sharks, Flanagan and Elkin
The NRL announced today the determinations made by NRL CEO, Dave Smith, in relation to governance failings by Cronulla Sharks Football Club, Head Coach Shane Flanagan and former Head of Strength and Conditioning Trent Elkin that risked player health and welfare.

Mr Smith confirmed that the Club breached the NRL Code of Conduct in several respects in relation to its supplements program during 2011.

He also confirmed that Mr Flanagan and Mr Elkin were responsible for a number of the failings that led to those breaches.

Mr Smith said that he had carefully and thoroughly considered the extensive written submissions and supporting material received from all parties in relation to the preliminary findings that he made on 17 December 2013.

“My overriding concern has always been the health and wellbeing of our players, and my decision recognises that Rugby League will not accept practices that put our players at unnecessary risk,” Mr Smith said.

“While I recognise that this is a difficult time for everybody involved, it is important I take action to ensure proper processes are in place to protect our players and the strength of our game.”

In summary, the findings mean:

* The Club is fined $1 million of which $400,000 is suspended subject to the satisfaction of governance changes and compliance with the NRL rules;
* Mr Flanagan’s registration is suspended for 12 months or until he satisfies conditions imposed by the NRL. However, he may return in nine months, if those conditions are satisfied by then; and
* Mr Elkin’s registration is cancelled. If he were to make a new application within the next two years, it will of course be assessed on its merits, but it is unlikely to be looked at favourably.

In relation to the Club, the governance measures required to be put in place include:

* The completion of an independent governance review;
* An assessment of the Club’s risk and control reporting framework;
* Appointment of additional resources in the Club’s football department; and
* Compliance with new supplement and medication rules.

These measures must be completed by 31 July 2014. If they are not completed to the satisfaction of the NRL, the Cronulla Sharks may be excluded from participation in the 2014 NRL Finals Series.

In relation to Mr Flanagan, Mr Smith said it is imperative he demonstrates his understanding of his duties and obligations as Head Coach before he returns to the NRL.

The conditions Mr Flanagan must satisfy before his suspension will be lifted include that:

* He will need to properly observe the suspension;
* He will need to complete an intensive education and training course focused on his responsibilities as Head Coach;
* Once he completes that course, he will need to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NRL that he understands his duties and obligations under the NRL Rules.

The decision regarding Mr Flanagan’s eligibility to return will be made by an NRL panel comprised of the CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Head of Football and General Manager Integrity.

The NRL said that should the parties want to contest Mr Smith’s final decision, they can request a review by the NRL Appeals Committee. This request must be made within five business days.

The NRL Appeals Committee is headed by former High Court Judge, Ian Callinan QC and also includes former player Luke Priddis and former NSW Minister for Sport and player Mike Cleary.

The NRL has taken significant steps to ensure risk is minimised in the future, including establishing an Integrity Unit; implementing new and sophisticated drug testing procedures; introducing new supplement and medical procedures, which also elevate the role of doctors; and enforcing stronger registration rules across the game.

Mr Smith sought to reassure fans and members of the Cronulla Sharks Football Club that their new Board and management team were making positive structural changes and that their Club had a strong future.

"I want this game to be strong, healthy and aligned with the community’s values,” Mr Smith said.
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