NRL Board supports Storm penalty

All members of the National Rugby League Board have today given their support for the penalty imposed on Melbourne Storm this week over salary cap breaches.<br><br>A formal NRL Board Meeting has not been called given the potential conflict of interest News Limited appointees may face and the fact that a quorum could not be maintained in their absence.<br><br>Today’s telephone conference was a further opportunity for the Board’s Members to review all the options that had been considered in developing the penalty for the Storm’s systematic breaching of the salary cap by more than $1.7million over five years.<br><br>On Thursday the NRL announced that it would strip Melbourne of&nbsp; the 2007 and 2009 Premierships, the Minor Premierships of 2006, 2007 and 2008, $1.1million in prize-money (to be redistributed among the fifteen other clubs) and all competition points in 2010. It further announced that the Storm would be fined $500,000 and that no future competition points could be accrued this season.<br><br>While not formally recording a vote, today’s discussion ended with each Board Member communicated strong support for the NRL’s actions.<br><br>The Board Members noted that discussions in relation to the penalty had included:<br><br>• That the collusive nature of the breaches had seen the club build up a playing roster over five years.<br>• That the significant benefit of the deceptive conduct has been to prevent key players (including some of the best players in the game) from joining rival clubs by denying those clubs a legitimate chance to compete for the services of those players.<br>• The club enforcing pay-cuts to now move under the cap would in no way reverse the advantage that has been unfairly gained by building and retaining its current squad.<br>• There was no way of redressing the fact that the Storm have already competed in the 2010 competition with a squad that is in breach of the rules.<br>• While Melbourne will not retain competition points from those matches, the effect of the results on other clubs in terms of competition points and in terms of ‘for and against’ cannot be undone.<br>• Any attempt to deplete Melbourne’s playing strength going forward would lead to other teams playing a weaker Melbourne team than those who have already conceded points and or lost matches to the Storm.<br>• Regardless of that issue, it would neither be feasible nor acceptable to any fair minded party to allow Melbourne to now determine which players should leave to bring the club under the salary cap in the immediate term.<br>• It would be equally open to challenge were any other authority to attempt to identify players on a similar basis.<br>• Financial obligations between the Storm and its players will need to be honoured in any case and in such a circumstance the ‘pay-out’ figure of those arrangements will need to be included within the Salary Cap, thus compounding the size of their current breach.<br>• There is no mechanism to fairly distribute players to other clubs and no capacity across the clubs within existing salary cap limits for them to fairly compete for player services in 2010.<br>• It is unreasonable for anyone to determine that some players should be singled out from the Storm roster and told that they cannot compete in the NRL in 2010, while others remain and begin to earn Premiership points.<br>• Players, members, fans and officials from any team that was to finish behind the Storm in 2010 would legitimately argue that they had been unfairly disadvantaged.<br>• The proposition, therefore, of Melbourne starting on a negative points tally that would ensure they ran last, versus that of refusing to award competition points is one that would make no net change to the outcome.<br><br>“The Board today had the chance to discuss the complexity of the issues going forward and have been extremely supportive,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.<br><br>“Nobody can look forward to the prospect of a team playing without accumulating points but the alternatives are both impractical and unacceptable in a fair competition.<br><br>“The people responsible for the game being in this position are those who engineered five years of systematic cheating of the rules.<br><br>“The benefits of that cannot be simply overturned in a week.<br><br>“The NRL went to considerable lengths to look at every possible option and that includes the ones that have been discussed in the aftermath of Thursday’s announcement.<br><br>“If Melbourne were to accumulate points in 2010, any team that finished behind them this year would have the right to feel cheated.<br><br>“Teams that have played a full-strength Melbourne to date will feel cheated in watching other clubs play a team of reduced strength in the rounds ahead.<br><br>“Melbourne have stated that they will do all they can on the field to win back support from their fans and it is demeaning the individuals of that club for commentators to suggest that they would do otherwise.<br><br>“Their wins and losses remain on the table and the pride the players take in their own performances will remain. <br><br>“We wish to see Melbourne re-build in the future, we know that can happen and we will do all we can to support it within the rules.<br><br>“Altering the rules of this year’s competition to accommodate the deception that has taken place at an administrative level is not something we can support.<br><br>“Retaining the current Storm squad without allowing it to accumulate points at least ensures some level of consistency for other clubs.<br><br>“The Board members agreed that point today and so too do the remaining clubs in the competition.”