Field Theory by Hadyn Green


The Old Marquee Scam

It must be written somewhere that Rugby League must be tougher, badder and generally worse than all other sports. Rugby players go out drinking and there's an altercation. Well league players are going to smash a few tables and throw in some sexual assault, maybe even a bit of public urination. You have a bit of a dust up on the field, league players make sure someone looses a tooth. Heck, the players keep inventing tackles that have to be banned so they don't kill each other.

The Melbourne Storm have now shown that they can not only be bad guys on the field and in the bars, but also in the financial world. This isn't your Daddy's salary cap breach. There was no "here's a very well paid job for your girlfriend", or money paid to local businesses to pay back to the players.

Instead it seems they paid for things they already had. The "marquee scam" was intelligent in that the payments were small but were paid every home game. Moreover this is a simple fraud where money just "disappears". So the only people who need to be involved are the players, management and a bunch of accountants. I wonder if the accountants get a pay rise for these scams too.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that it happened at all.

Firstly, the NRL is a pretty even competition. Apart from the Broncos and Bulldogs (both of whom have had dodgy salary cap records in the past) and recently the Storm, most teams have had a time at the top of the competition, even our Warriors have been a formidable team (and that was before we cheated on the cap). Of course fans prefer a winner so there is a financial reward for winning a lot. Crowd attendances had bottomed out in 2004 at under 9,000 per game. But fans are fickle, and attendance doesn't mean lack of support, just ask Canterbury. Though it does mean dollars.

But the main reason I am surprised by this is that I ‘m fairly sure you can get around the salary cap without loads of deception, conspiracy and cheating. In the US teams restructure players contracts every year in order to move money away or on to the salary cap. The money never actually goes away but it can be deferred into the future. Far into the future.

Now Melbourne loses its two championships, it's prize money, and any competition points from this season. I'm sure there'll be fines and criminal investigations as well, because it is fraud. The punishment I would like to see is making the franchise get under the cap right now, like before the next game. Suddenly the market will be flooded with talented players and a few teams who may have cap room and a few injuries (coughWarriorscough) could get a 1-year contract bargain.

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