Sport Rugby League Manly Sea Eagles fined $750k for salary cap breaches, consider appeal

Manly Sea Eagles fined $750k for salary cap breaches, consider appeal

Manly Sea Eagles players
The Manly Sea Eagles have been fined for breaching the salary cap. Photo: AAP
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Manly claims it has strong grounds to appeal long-term salary cap sanctions and hefty fines handed down by the NRL stemming from findings of widespread breaches.

The NRL wiped $330,000 from the club’s 2018 and 2019 caps on Monday, and fined the club $750,000 after it found the Sea Eagles had promised 13 players a combined $1.5 million in additional payments outside the cap during contract negotiations in the past five years.

More than 800,000 documents were seized as part of the NRL’s nine-month investigation, with chief operating officer Neil Bare and and former chief executive Joe Kelly – now with the Sydney Roosters – suspended for 12 months as part of a 115-page determination.

No points will be stripped as Manly is already cap compliant without releasing players, but its 2018 figure now virtually only allows for just two minimum-salary players to be added to complete its roster of 30.

But Manly denied the central allegations of the findings on Monday afternoon, and insisted it had not paid players above salary cap declarations.

“At this stage, our club believes that there are strong grounds to appeal, based on the material presented today,” it said in a statement.

“The club is awaiting preliminary legal advice and will respond in more detail once that advice has been received.”

Club legend Bob Fulton’s future in the game is also significantly threatened, after NRL CEO Todd Greenberg confirmed the rugby league immortal was found to have been involved in negotiations before he stepped away last year.

Investigations at Manly started last July when the club approached the league and asked it to enter the club to quell rumours stemming out of Strike Force Nuralda.

From there it got ugly.

NRL chief Todd Greenberg
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the penalties were a warning to all clubs. Photo: AAP

The NRL’s determination claimed the club was offering players amounts above its cap-disclosed salary, with the Sea Eagles often scrambling to find third-party sponsors to pay the amount.

The NRL also claims the third-party deals were not made at arm’s length as the club argued, and were instead procured by the Sea Eagles.

The breaches increased in significance over the past three years, during which period the Sea Eagles have signed and re-signed a number of high-profile stars.

“The other 15 clubs have every right to be angry,” Greenberg said.

“Not just that the game’s image is tarnished by another salary cap saga, but because they may have missed the opportunity to secure players because of Manly’s undisclosed deals.”

Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett also received an official warning from the NRL, but Greenberg said he’d committed no wrongdoing on Monday when he called to deliver the news.

“I’ve spoken to him about that – about his knowledge of the rules and the governance as a head coach,” Greenberg said.

“There’s no evidence Trent has done anything wrong here, but there are some learnings he can take from the process.”

Former coach Geoff Toovey was also cleared, as were all players.

Worryingly, it’s understood some of the player agents involved may have also played a part in Parramatta’s salary cap rorts in 2016.

Manly has five business days to launch an appeal, unless chairman Scott Penn and CEO Lyall Gorman seek an extension.

The club could also have the fine reduced to $500,000, given it confirmed on Monday it would commence governance reforms and would comply with NRL policies and guidelines.