Rebels boss caught in cheat Storm
April 22, 2010
Rebels CEO Brian Waldron has been accused of orchestrating a major salary cap breach during his time in charge of rugby league side Melbourne Storm © Getty Images
Melbourne Rebels chief executive Brian Waldron has been named as the architect in one of Australian sport's most shocking cases of cheating with the scandal stemming from his time in charge of rugby league club Melbourne Storm.
The Storm have been stripped of two National Rugby League titles and three minor premierships for breaching the salary cap severely and systematically during the past five years, during which time Waldron was presiding over the Storm outfit.
Waldron left the Storm to head up the new Rebels franchise, which is set to join an expanded Super 15 competition in 2011, in January this year. It's unclear at this early stage how the fallout from the Storm scandal will affect Waldron and the Rebels, although Storm owners said at the announcement of the punishment to their club on Thursday they would be getting police involved to pursue those responsible for indiscretions including fraud. Waldron refused to comment, with owner Harold Mitchell also keeping tight-lipped about 'NRL business'.
"He cannot make any comment - he is taking some advice at the moment," a Rebels spokeswoman told AAP.
The Australian Rugby Union will also be closely monitoring the situation as the Rebels continue to build towards their Super bow.
"It is the first we have heard about this issue with the Melbourne Storm, and we have had no direct dialogue with the NRL or News Ltd, so we can't comment on the depth or detail of any allegation that they may level at any individuals," ARU spokesman Peter Jenkins told AAP. "It is clear from a Melbourne Storm perspective there will be more details to come and we will follow the situation with interest."
The Melbourne Storm club is owned by News Ltd, the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. It's chief executive, John Hartigan, said Waldron was the "architect" of the elaborate cheating scheme, but that the full picture of culpability would be clearer after a "forensic" investigation was taken into the club's finances.
It's thought the NRL was tipped off about the existence of a second set of accounts and player contracts, which its salary cap auditor then discovered hidden in a separate room in the club's offices.
Had Waldron not been involved in the scandal, the timing of the incident could have been a boon for the Rebels, with an army of angry fans likely to turn their back on the Storm and seek an alternative source of football entertainment. If his involvement with the Rebels continues, however, a public backlash against the Rebels is another possibility.
The NRL salary cap of A$4.1 million per season exists to create a level playing field in the competition, spreading the success around the clubs to keep all equally competitive and financially viable. Australian Rugby League boss David Gallop revealed the club has been keeping "two sets of books" to hide extra payments to senior players. The Storm was set to pay players a staggering A$700,000 over the cap level this season.
The Storm won the minor premiership in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as well as the 2007 and 2009 Grand Finals. All of those results have been scratched from the record books, with no replacement results to be named. Storm has been stripped of their competition points from this year's NRL season, which has only just kicked off, and they will play for no points in their remaining games. They have also been ordered to pay A$1.6 million in prizemoney and fines.
The news has sent shockwaves through Australian sport, considering three of the past four seasons of one of its most popular football codes have effectively been declared null and void.