‘Shocked’ retort to damning Farah scandal
The NRL means business this off-season and in one swift display rugby league's govering body dropped the hammer on two separate clubs.
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was deregistered by the NRL for dealing with the club while suspended in 2014 and Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe has been deregistered for his role in a salary cap scandal involving Robbie Farah.
An investigation into alleged salary cap breaches by the Tigers revealed the Tigers had agreed in 2016 to pay Robbie Farah more than $400,000 over four years to return to the club in an ambassador role. The money was not included in the club's salary cap.
The decision surrounding the Tigers' breach is a complicated one because of the nature of the agreement with Farah for an ambassadorial position with the club following his expected retirement at the end of 2019.
The $400,000 deal was reportedly promised to Farah by Pascoe during Farah's messy exit from the club two years ago when he left to join the Rabbitohs. Farah was eventually released by South Sydney to return to the Tigers in June and remains contracted through to the end of next season.
The Wests Tigers have also been fined $750,000 following the investigation and its findings. Pascoe and the Tigers have until January to respond to the breach notices, as does Flanagan.
Further to the fine, the Tigers will also be penalised $639,000 of their 2019 salary cap - the full value of the ambassadorial agreement.
NRL CEO Todd Goldberg took a tough stance when addressing reporters at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to deliver the news.
"We have obtained documents which show that the club entered an agreement to pay Robbie Farah to act as an ambassador at the club when he retires from playing," Greenberg said.
"This agreement was signed in 2016, at the same time Robbie left the club to join the Rabbitohs.
"The game's rules are very, very clear on these arrangements.
"Any commitment to make such a payment should have been disclosed and should have been included in the salary cap. The club failed to do this.
"The club then compounded its conduct by submitting a misleading application to the NRL in relation to the salary cap treatment of money paid to Robbie when he left the club."
There is no suggestion Farah has done anything wrong, and the Tigers reportedly claim the agreement was simply an innocent misunderstanding.
Pascoe reportedly claims the club was unaware it had to declare the $400,000 deal because it surrounds Farah's future at the club as a life member and premiership winner at the joint-venture club.
The Tigers responded to the damning report and notices handed down to the club with a statement in which they expressed their "shock" over the findings.
"At 8am this morning the NRL informed Wests Tigers that it is issuing a preliminary breach notice in relation to an ambassador agreement with Robbie Farah," the statement read.
"The club is shocked with the decision and extremely disappointed in the process.
"It is an arrangement that Wests Tigers had with Robbie that is unrelated to his career as a player. The club does not know if he is going to take it up and Robbie has not indicated his intention in return.
"The reason the ambassadorship was offered in November 2015 is that then new CEO Justin Pascoe felt that the club had disrespected Robbie and this was a way to show him the respect that Justin felt he deserved as a Life Member and club legend due to the overwhelming support Robbie had at the time from Members and fans.
"Most importantly Wests Tigers derive absolutely no advantage from this arrangement. It is not tied in any way to Robbie's playing contract.
"Wests Tigers are particularly concerned about the wrongful attack on the integrity of the club's CEO. For the last three years Justin has shown nothing but respect for the NRL and the salary cap.
"The club will be vigorously defending this."