Warriors could start NRL in negative points
22 February 2006Â
By GREG PRICHARD
Sydney Morning Herald
The New Zealand Warriors are set to be penalised four to six competition points and fined up to $A500,000 for salary cap rorts, dating back to at least 2004, which put the club more than $A500,000 over the $A3.25 million cap limit.
The club's new management team is blaming the previous administration for secret player payments that have put the team's 2006 campaign at grave risk of becoming a disaster.
Warriors chairman Maurice Kidd told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that when the management informed him of irregularities they had found, he reacted with "horror, shock and disbelief".
"It ****** me off," Kidd said. "It was brought to my attention and then we immediately brought it to the attention of the NRL. The arrangements in question were made prior to the new administration coming in and we told the league we didn't know how this should be treated. It was a Pandora's box."
Late last year, Wayne Scurrah was appointed chief executive as part of a new administration. But while the new management's co-operation with the NRL will help the club in terms of penalty, it won't stop the league from hitting the Warriors hard. The Warriors revealed the fact they were under investigation by issuing a media release yesterday morning. It was confirmed soon after by a release from the NRL.
It emerged Warriors management had last week discovered what the club described in the release as "a number of potential discrepancies" while preparing for an audit by the league's salary cap boss, Ian Schubert.
The Sydney Morning Herald understands that when Schubert previously examined the club's books in November he sensed something was wrong, which led to his scheduling a more thorough investigation.
Kidd, Scurrah and John Hart, the Warriors executive director of football, met NRL chief executive David Gallop, Schubert and other league officials on Monday. The league's investigation will continue, with a result likely next week, but it is clear the Warriors are in big trouble. Gallop added yesterday: "There are significant questions that need answers."
Asked if the Warriors could lose points as well as be fined, Gallop replied: "All clubs know competition points are in jeopardy when breaches are of a certain nature and/or magnitude."
The most infamous salary cap case involved the Bulldogs, who, several weeks before the 2002 finals series, were penalised 37 competition points and fined $A500,000 for systematic rorting. The fact this year's competition hasn't even started will be considered when the NRL decides on a penalty for the Warriors.
It would be hard enough for them to start a tough competition on -4 or -6 points, but the club could suffer a financial meltdown if it was penalised right out of the running for the finals, and crowds and sponsors dropped off. The Warriors are doing all they can to co-operate with the NRL, hoping that will have an impact on the penalty.
"I obviously take this very seriously," Kidd said. "And naturally I'm concerned we might face penalties. It's like if you're caught breaking and entering or drink-driving - you have to face the consequences. But, if we have to face the music, I'm sure that if anyone commits an offence there is usually some leniency if you are up front and co-operate."
Asked how big the breach was, Kidd replied: "No breach is minor." Asked if he thought there would be a points penalty, he replied: "I hope not."
Gallop gave Kidd and the club credit for working with the league on the issue. But, at the same time, he stressed the league's rules on the salary cap had to be respected above everything.
"The penalty system that is in place has always given credit for disclosure and co-operation," Gallop said. "But, equally, cap breaches involving secret payments strike at the heart of the fairness of the competition."
Kidd said the coaching and playing staff at the Warriors were "upset, but coping very well".
The NRL could look at the involvement of player agents and players more closely in this case, given the league's new agent-accreditation scheme. The Warriors' odds of winning the wooden spoon shortened yesterday and some agencies suspended betting.
This isn't good for the club, they dont have that many supporters going to the games now days anyway