Saturday, April 24, 2010

Corrupt Storm

For several days now, the media has regaled us with the sordid details of corruption at the Melbourne Storm Rugby League club. The corruption involved 2 sets of accounting books; one "official" set, kept with player contracts. A second set, hidden in a separate storage, apparently documents extra payments to some players at $15 000 a time. Today's news also gives some details of letters of offer (of off-the-book payments) to at least 3 players. The corruption involved at least some senior managers, probably the players to whom letters were written, 1 or more sponsors. The NRL has imposed very tough penalties: stripped of Minor Premierships, Premierships (Grand Final wins), return of $1.1m in winnings and $500 000 fine, loss of all points for 2010, and unable to gain any competition points in 2010.

The corruption allowed the club to keep more players, with more talent, so that they gained an unfair advantage over other clubs. It is devastating for those not involved, and it would be appropriate for them to stand up and say that they do not want corrupt officials, staff, players at the club - they should help root out the evil infecting their club.

For more than 10 years, ever since its inception, Melbourne Storm has lost money; losses that have had to be made up by grants from the NRL, and from its owner, News Ltd. News Ltd has been trying to sell the club for some years. It might now not be able to sell the losing concern.

While forensic accountants have been called in by News Ltd, and some matters referred to police, there is more that must be done. The NRL must investigate:
  • players to whom letters were sent, offering the corrupt payments. If shown to be true to the NRL's satisfaction, these players must have their NRL contracts withdrawn, and be suspended from any professional league for at least 12 months.
  • the involvement of club executives, and other staff, including coaching and related team staff. As with players, anyone involved should be banned from working in any NRL-related capacity for some time.
  • The apparent insider trading on betting. At least 1 $50 000 bet on Storm getting the wooden spoon (coming last) was made hours before the announcement that they would get no points in 2010 and come last. What relationship does the bettor have with the NRL, the Melbourne Storm, or any other club, or club executives?
Other clubs, and other sports, will be examining, or re-examining, their behaviours. That is a good thing. Corruption in any form is insidious. It, and its perpetrators, must be weeded out.

For the record, I do not support any NRL team; I prefer Super Rugby.