OPINION: NRL approach towards the Eels’ salary cap breach is admirable

Only six weeks into the job and Todd Greenberg was tasked with the most difficult situation.

How should he effectively punish the Parramatta Eels for breaching the salary cap?

Twice in NRL history, clubs have been penalised significantly for spending over the cap.

The CEO of the NRL on both occasions, David Gallop, handed the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs a $500,000 fine as well as stripping the club of 37 competition points.

Most famously, the Melbourne Storm were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 Premiership Titles, their three Minor Premierships between the years 2006 and 2008 as well as being stripped of all current and future competition points in 2010. On top of that, the club was copped with a $500,000 fine and forced to pay back $1.1 million worth of prize money.

Parramatta, on the other hand, has been stripped 12 points and are not allowed to accrue any competition points until they are under the salary cap once more. On top of this, the NRL has issued the largest fine in the competition’s history for this offence, with the Eels facing a $1 million fine. The club has also been stripped of their Auckland Nines title from early this year.

Five Eels officials including chairman Steve Sharp, and football manager Daniel Anderson have been asked to stand aside.

Reports in News Limited online content today allege that the “five Eels officials were present for the club’s infamous board meetings in January and March of 2014 when methods for cheating the salary cap were openly discussed and written down in the official minutes of the meetings.”

On the face of it, Greenberg’s decision appears soft. This is a club that exceeded the salary cap by $3 million over the last four years and is still over the cap by over $500,000.

However, when looking deeper into the NRL CEO’s actions, they are anything but. He made sure he faced the playing group before any decision was announced so they were able to hear the news directly.

When Greenberg was asked why the Eels are given the opportunity to play for points, he made it clear that he thought the decision against the Storm was soul destroying for the club and its fans. He clearly wants to see a competition in which every game has meaning.

He has taken a different route to that of David Gallop. Not that Gallop was wrong, he just approached the situation differently. Melbourne and Canterbury can’t complain as they were caught cheating and punished appropriately at the time.

Although the Eels are taking the case to the Supreme Court – so the punishments aren’t official as of yet – Greenberg is allowing the club a fresh start. All he is demanding is that the team is under the salary cap before they start accruing points. He isn’t punishing the players and coach who appear to be innocent parties. The NRL has been able to set a good precedent if similar cases arise in the future.

By deregistering the board members responsible and encouraging the club to be under the salary cap, it’s now up to Parramatta to save their season. If they are willing, it’s possible, but they need to act fast.

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