Sport is based upon the principle of a fair contest. A fair contest requires two players or teams to compete on an even footing, where the physical and mental ability of those people determine the outcome of the contest as played within the boundaries of the rules of the sport and of the sports competition.
The National Rugby League (NRL) is the most successful rugby league competition in Australia and arguably the world. For the uninitiated, the NRL is a 16 club competition with clubs based in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Wollongong, Newcastle, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Auckland (NZL) and Melbourne. The Melbourne Storm Rugby League Football Club is an anomaly, it is an outpost of rugby league based in the heartland of the nation’s most successful competition (the Australian Football League).
In the past four seasons it has enjoyed a remarkable run of success; top of the NRL league ladder (Minor Premiers) at the end of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 home & away seasons, a 75.5% WPCT across the four home & away seasons 2006- 2009; Grand Finalists for four consecutive seasons (2006-2009) and Grand Final victories (Premiers) in 2007 and 2009. During this time, Storm players have represented a good proportion of the Australian National Rugby League team, the Kangaroos.
These glory days–for what was regarded as one of the great rugby league clubs of the modern era– now count for nothing.
The Melbourne Storm were today exposed by the NRL administration for breaches of the NRL salary cap of around $1.7m across the past five seasons. During this time the NRL salary cap was $3.366m (2006), $3.9m (2007), $4.0m (2008 & 2009) and $4.1m (2010). In the harshest penalty ever meted out in Australian sport, NRL CEO David Gallop today announced the Melbourne Storm would be: (i) stripped of their recognition as Premiers in 2007 & 2009, (ii) stripped of their recognition as Minor Premiers in 2006-2008, (iii) fined $500,000, (iv) required to repay $1.1m in prizemoney, and (v) stripped of all competition points to this stage of the 2010 NRL season and be ineligible for competition points for the rest of this season (dooming the Storm to a meaningless season in 2010.
Full details of this can be found at the NRL website www.nrl.com at this link, details of the NRL salary cap are at this link, the history of NRL salary cap breaches is available here; and any Australian newspaper has blanket coverage. Further details will be posted next week as more comes to light. At this stage, it appears several Storm executives have been sacked; former Storm CEO Brian Waldren, who left the club earlier this year, may well lose his new job as the CEO of Rugby Super 15’s expansion club the Melbourne Rebels; speculation is mounting that police are likely to be asked to investigate claims of criminal fraud; owners of the Melbourne Storm, News Ltd (Australian subsidiary of News Corp) are in a compromised position for New Ltd also owns half of the NRL itself; the NRL administration, while being applauded for this stiff penalty, is also being questioned for why it did not detect the breaches sooner; questions are being raised about the appropriate level of the NRL salary cap; others are questioning the legality of salary caps per se; many fear for the future of the club itself; and speculation is also mounting that AFL Club, St Kilda, will also be investigated by the AFL administration, for Waldren was the St Kilda CEO before moving to the Storm.
As it stands, the official NRL records will not recognise a Premier in 2007 and 2009; the titles will not be awarded to the losing grand finalist.
In a city where the locals (I’m one of them) likes to boast of being the sporting capital of the world; a small number of people have been shown to lack one the most basic ingredients of sport. Our best have failed us. They deserve no acclaim. We have developed economic models of cheating in sport; but there is no economic rationale; no rationale full stop, for destroying the fabric of what we are raised to believe in. Some people in Melbourne will attempt to sleep tonight, knowing the rest of the world now know what kind of people they truly are. They are cheats.