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NRL Chief Operating Officer Jim Doyle has drawn a line in the sand regarding betting on rugby league from players and officials.
"For players and officials we're saying that if you bet on rugby league... you're taking a significant risk of losing your job or being significantly suspended," declared Doyle in handing down a series of penalties stemming from the NRL's investigation into gambling in the game.
Manly winger David Williams heads the list as one of five players suspended for betting on rugby league fixtures, with the former Kangaroos flanker rubbed out for the rest of the season for illegally betting on games in which he was playing – although there is no suggestion of attempting to fix any results.
Three casual game day officials have also been sacked and another nine suspended for the remainder of 2014, while first and final warnings have been issued to 12 other NRL players, staff and officials for isolated betting breaches.
Doyle said the findings of the investigation, which audited the betting records of more than 1500 people involved with the game, are a clear indication that the NRL is taking a zero tolerance policy in regards to betting on fixtures from players and officials, and that further audits could be expected in the future.
"This is not a one-off for us, we're not going to do this just today," Doyle told reporters outside Rugby League Central.
"We're actually going to go through this process on a regular basis to audit everything we can."
"Obviously you'll see the penalties going forward if anyone bets on rugby league will be much stronger."
Doyle stressed that the investigation had discovered no indication of any evidence of serious abuse of betting laws, or unusual activity involving exotic betting options such as first try-scorer or first-points scoring options, which are potentially more susceptible to match and spot-fixing.
As part of a new zero tolerance package of reforms, Doyle said all players, staff and officials at NRL level will be required to sign a document demonstrating they fully understand and will comply with the NRL's betting rules, while also indicating the game would step up its awareness and education programs regarding gambling.
"For the fans it does show that it's a real big focus for us to protect the integrity of our sport," said Doyle.
"We've said today that it's really important for us moving forward that we've got complete clarity, no ambiguity whatsoever in regards to what you can and can't do.
"We'll be looking at [further audits] on a very regular basis to see what information we can garner, whether it be through our agencies, whether it be through intelligence to make sure the integrity of our sport is paramount."
Of the staff and officials that received were suspended or sacked for gambling on NRL matches, none were in senior roles or able to have any influence on the outcome of matches, while Doyle revealed the casual game day officials that were penalised but not named are "basically volunteers," who are fully employed in other occupations.
Doyle said there was no specific incident or irregularity that had triggered the NRL's investigation, but that the move was part of the game's new hardline stance on betting on games.
"We decided a few months ago that we needed to get on the front foot and be proactive and make sure we start sending a much clearer message around gambling.
"In the past, these types of investigations would've been on a reactive basis, something happened; [there was] a whistleblower or some sort of context and then it would have been investigated.
"This is the first time we've ever done an investigation anywhere near the extent of what we've done.
"The NRL will continue to work with the betting agencies to ensure there is no threat to the integrity of our game."