The NRL’s summer from hell cost Melbourne Storm $500,000 a year in lost sponsorship, claims Storm Chairman Bart Campbell.
The claim was made in the Federal Court with Campbell backing the ARL commission and NRL’s no-fault stand down rules, which have been applied to St George’s Jack de Belin who is currently challenging the league’s policy in a well-documented court case.
The policy was established in March this season, following the many controversial headlines that circulated the NRL off-season. It allowed the ARL commission to stand down any player who was charged with a serious crime which carries sentencing of 11 years more, and disallows the player from taking the field while their case is heard in court.
De Belin pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault occurring late last year.
Campbell said that the Storm franchise struggled to find a replacement for major sponsors Crown Resorts after they announced last year that they would be no longer linked as a partner with the club.
Martin Einfield, a member of de Belin’s legal team, argued that his client and the coinciding dramas during the off-season had nothing to to with Storm’s inability to attract a sponsor.
The Storm boss responded by saying the club had negotiated with 15 to 20 organisations, some of which stating that they didn’t want to be associated with the game – which occurred early in the new year and late last year.
“We had four companies tell us the risk of being associated with the NRL was too great,” Campbell told AAP.
The club eventually signed real estate company Purple Bricks in March, agreeing to a one-year deal to become Storm’s major sponsor.
Campbell said after a recent financial upturn, the club experienced issues with gaining revenue and corporate support from sponsors following the code’s bad-boy summer antics.
“In the six years I’ve been involved with the club we’ve had an increase of 73 per cent in sponsorship, crowds have increased 70 per cent membership has increased 75 per cent, TV audiences have gone from 11 million to 19 million,” Campbell said.
Campbell spoke to reporters outside of court saying his stance was nothing personal against de Belin and St George Illawara, he just wanted to protect the game.