DEVELOPMENTS over the last few hours involving the ASADA investigation at Cronulla give us an insight into just how much infrastructure we really need to put around the NRL so that it operates with integrity and transparency in this punting-crazy world.
In case you missed it (but still found this column –unlikely, I know), betting has been frozen on the Cronulla-Gold Coast match this Sunday because the Australian Crime Commission and ASADA have been interviewing officials and –we think – players at the Sharks.
There is speculation as many as 14 players will be stood down and that authorities are trying to ‘cut a deal’ with the club which would involve a suspension of six months for those involved in doping in 2011.
Media was shut out of training as the story broke.
Discord has been bleating for years about the NRL setting up an internal integrity unit. One of the arguments against this was that the external expert they used, Ray Murrihy, was better connected and more experienced than anyone they could hire.
So you would imagine that should Ray Murrihy put his hand up for the job, he’d have it. Well, apparently not….
In any case, the key to protecting the integrity of the competition in the face of multiple threats associated with betting is not just about forming a unit to deal with dirty laundry.
It’s about airing ALL the laundry.
The biggest problem is inside information. If you use inside information to make a buck in business, you could get thrown in jail. In betting, everyone pats you on the back. How does that work?
In the NFL, clubs have to list who trained and who didn’t and why. Non-disclosure carries draconian penalties. And in most US states, it’s illegal to bet on the NFL anyway!
Locking the gates at training may be the first instinct of rugby league clubs when there’s drama. But the more you interact with gambling, the more transparent you need to be or else you will be dragged down by it.
Secrets are worth money and can be exploited. The day should not be far away when Cronulla – as part of the price it pays in return for a slice of the betting cake – has to announce at the earliest possible juncture “training now closed and function cancelled due to ASADA interviews with six players”
If you’re going to take money from punters, then compel clubs to say whether a star player like Sonny Bill Williams is actually playing. How many rules and protocols do they have in horse racing? We need to replicate every one of them in rugby league – stewards, scratchings, the lot.
If rugby league wants to keep its nose clean while it pockets millions from bookmakers, it needs much, much fewer secrets.
You can’t be half pregnant and you can’t half-engage bookmakers.
I FEEL sorry for Phil Veivers, the Salford coach who was sacked yesterday.
His team’s comeback against Hull KR two Sundays ago was one of the most stunning I have ever seen, and yet a week later he was gone after a heavy home loss to London.
Salford owner Marwan Koukash seems like an entertaining fellow and the fact that he is chasing the best players in the world – and now the best coach – is good for the game.
But his call for the salary cap to be raised is ill-conceived at best. Many clubs in Super League cannot afford to spend up to the cap and there are even calls for it to go down.
If Super League wants a cash injection and to operate at a higher level financially, then – as I’ve said before – they should talk to some of the franchises who have tried and failed to get into the NRL.
I know for a fact the West Coast Pirates have discussed entering Super League at a board meeting. What a great fillip it would be for Super League if they announced the Central Coast Bears or Brisbane Bombers had been granted franchises in 2015!
THANKS to everyone for their comments last week. From now on until the World Cup, you will only be able to read Discord here online, which is part of the agreement between Fairfax and my primary employers, Rugby League Week.