Manly chairman Scott Penn claims the third-party arrangement system is “broken” after the club informed the NRL it will be challenging its salary cap sanctions.
The development comes as Sea Eagles CEO Lyall Gorman became one of the club bosses appointed to oversee a review of the controversial payment system.
The Sea Eagles informed the NRL on Thursday it was seeking leave to appeal its sanctions, which include a $750,000 fine ($250,000) suspended and $660,000 taken out of the salary cap for this season and next. The next step in the process is for the chairman of the appeals committee to determine whether the case is strong enough to proceed.
Penn maintained that the club had not systemically cheated the system and that the case boiled down to the interpretation of the TPA rules.
“It’s important to note there is no intentional rorting,” Penn told Fairfax Media.
“There is a lot of speculation out there, but the club has not paid one cent more than is in a players’ contract or in the annual statutory declaration.
“There is nothing we have paid outside of that, that’s why we’re fighting this. We strongly believe this, it’s technical and a difference of opinion.
“We believe our actions have been all above board. The NRL are deeming them not, so that’s something we’re still working through.
“The most important point for me is this relates to the early negotiations with players when discussing the potential of third-party agreements and things like that.”
Asked if players were promised additional payments, Penn said: “That’s what the NRL are alleging, but they haven’t got any proof of that. From our point of view, in any negotiation there are wide-ranging discussions. But once the contract is signed that amount is put in our salary cap and that is all the club has paid them.
“We’ve always maintained our position and will continue to.”
In an admission the TPA system is flawed, the NRL has formed a committee to review it. Ironically, Gorman is one of the powerbrokers tasked with finding solutions.
“Lyall is a fantastic operator and has worked across a number of codes,” Penn said.
“He has a terrific handle on how player contracts should be structured and the nuances of the team and sponsorship arrangements.
Asked if there was a conflict of interest given Manly predicament, Penn said: “No. I don’t think so. Lyall has been with the club for three or four months. Everything that has been discussed is well before his time.”
TPAs have been the common denominator in recent salary cap scandals. There is a feeling across the game that it undoes the equalisation work of the salary cap and is also prone to manipulation.
“It continues to be modified, which suggests there are issues with it,” Penn said.
“I know there’s a sub-committee to try to fix it, the NRL acknowledges that it is somewhat broken. The quicker that can happen, the better it is for the game. We need total transparency and very clear rules so everyone can move forward with certainty. That’s all everyone is looking for.”
Gorman informed NRL CEO Todd Greenberg of the club’s decision to challenge the findings on Thursday.
“It’s not an assault on the NRL, it’s about the rules of the game,” Gorman said.
“It’s a different interpretation of those rules so it’s about getting that clarified and due process.
“I spoke to Todd this afternoon and made it clear it’s not personal, we’re not trying to take on the NRL. There’s a view the third-party agreement interpretation can be grey. We’re trying to work out what’s grey and what is not.”
Debate has raged over whether league Immortal Bob Fulton has been treated fairly throughout the process. The former Sea Eagles consultant stepped down from the role before he was compelled to be interviewed, but handed over his phone nonetheless. The NRL is adamant Fulton was given every opportunity to speak to investigators, while Fulton claims his time overseas didn’t fit within the NRL’s timeframe.
Asked if Fulton had been treated with due respect, Penn said: “No. He certainly has been brought under heavy scrutiny and we have always backed Bob.”
This article was published and provided by the Sydney Morning Herald.