Police to be asked to investigate Melbourne Storm's salary cap rorting | Herald Sun
Police to be asked to investigate Melbourne Storm's salary cap rorting
- John Ferguson, Russell Gould
- From: Herald Sun
- April 23, 2010 12:00AM
POLICE will be asked to investigate salary cap rorting at Melbourne Storm after Australia's biggest sporting scandal was exposed.
In a day of high drama, former Storm CEO Brian Waldron was named as the architect behind the fraud that has seen Storm stripped of two premierships, fined $500,000 and banned from earning points this season.
The Herald Sun understands Waldron will be fired this morning from his new job as CEO at the rugby union franchise Melbourne Rebels.
The NRL revealed that Storm breached the salary cap by $1.7 million over five years by keeping a second set of payment books, hidden from authorities in another room.
Some players were allegedly paid in $15,000 increments with special game-day bonuses dressed up as third-party hospitality payments.
Coach Craig Bellamy and the players were last night devastated by the scandal. Storm players will not be asked to return their premiership rings.
"This is an absolute shock to myself, to our football staff, to our players," Bellamy said.
"I am heartbroken."
Five past and present club officials face investigation.
They are Waldron, acting CEO Matt Hanson, chief financial officer Paul Gregory, former chief financial officer Cameron Vale, who left after a falling-out with Waldron to join North Melbourne, and former recruiting manager Peter O'Sullivan.
NRL chief executive David Gallop said salary cap breaches would never be tolerated.
"They (Storm) had a long-term system of effectively two sets of books and the elaborate lengths they have gone through to cover this up has been extraordinary," he said.
In a day that stunned the sporting world, Storm was:
STRIPPED of the 2007 and 2009 premiership titles.
STRIPPED of the 2006-08 minor premierships.
STRIPPED of premiership points accrued so far this year and banned from earning more points this season.
FINED $500,000 and ordered to return $1.1 million in prizemoney.
The club's owners and board revealed they were kept in the dark about the illegal payments.
And shattered fans were reeling at the prospect of a non-year.
John Hartigan, chairman of News Ltd, which owns the Storm and is publisher of the Herald Sun, said the full extent of the fraud might not have been uncovered and it had been concealed from the company: "This is not cheating around the edges. This club has had rats in its ranks."
An ashen-faced Mr Hartigan said of Waldron: "He appears to be the architect of the whole shooting match. In my view, if we're to be honest as a company and sport, we should look further than rugby league. We don't want people like that in sport in Australia."
Waldron ran Storm from 2004 until January this year, when he joined the Rebels.
Before that he worked for Richmond and St Kilda.
He could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.
Mr Hartigan ordered a forensic audit of Storm's accounts and financial affairs.
"I don't think there will be a league fan anywhere who is not outraged by what appears to be a highly orchestrated, deeply deceptive fraud in which there was systematic and deliberate concealment of unlawful payments to certain players over an extended period," Mr Hartigan said.
Mr Gallop said salary cap breaches of $1.7 million had hit $400,000 in 2009 and $700,000 by 2010.
The NRL salary cap is $4.1 million per club, compared with the AFL's $7.95 million.
"The most damning indictment is the systematic attempt by persons within the club to conceal payments from the salary cap auditor and, it would now seem from the club's board and from its owners, on an ongoing basis," he said.
"It was through this system that they were able to attract and retain some of the biggest names in rugby league.
"In doing so they have let down the game, the players and the fans of the Melbourne Storm."
Storm player Brett Finch branded the salary cap scandal disappointing.
"We've just had a chat with other people that are just that much higher than me," he said.
"Other comments will be made from other people. They'll sort that out."
Gutted stars Billy Slater, Ryan Hoffman and Jeff Lima were among those at the club's Visy Park headquarters on Thursday afternoon.
The trio refused to comment on the scandal that has embroiled the club.
"Sorry guys, I can't comment," Slater said.
I feel sorry for the players and fans. Sad day for them.