Although the story seems to change each and every day, the latest rumoured penalty set to be handed down to the Eels is eight competition points, as well as a large fine.
For those who aren’t caught up with the Eels salary cap dramas, it’s near impossible to summarise, but the evidence that the Eels have been playing outside of the rules for a few years now is mounting.
Some are calling for their entire board to be sacked and the Eels rubbed out of finals contention, while others think a fine will suffice.
For a long time I was of the opinion that if a side went over its salary cap by even a single dollar, they were cheating and should not be allowed to play finals football.
It’s not as though the cap is a new idea, clubs have had to work under a salary cap since the NRL’s very first season back in 1998. The Titans have operated under a cap since they came into existence also.
If you’re not able to play within the rules, you have no right to play finals footy, pretty simple.
However, since I have dedicated more hours than I care to admit reading into how the salary cap works and the intricacies of the Eels case, I don’t know if it’s as simple as kicking them out of finals contention.
Storm and Bulldogs fans have shown no sympathy nor mercy for their Parramatta counterparts after they were delivered the most severe of punishments.
Storm fans do have to take into account that their side was found guilty of the most ridiculous systematic cheating the game has ever uncovered. They were rightfully stripped of premierships they were unfairly put in a position to win.
Dog’s fans should have been cheering on their side on the biggest day of the NRL calendar, but instead ‘celebrated’ a wooden spoon in 2002 due to a similar scheme was uncovered.
On the other extreme of the spectrum is the small fines handed out to sides who surpass their allowed level of spending due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.
Unexpected rep payments and a big injury toll seem to be the constants here, and aren’t deemed worthy of a loss of competition points.
So where does the Parramatta situation place between systematic rorting and a slight miscalculation?
Reports of the situation date back to mid-2015, and there seems to be more evidence uncovered the further the NRL digs.
As I mentioned earlier, to sum this situation up would take more time than most have but the red flags include alleged irregular third party payments, and alleged undocumented payments.
There is no suggestion of a second set of books being created to fool the NRL and its auditors, so I think it’s fair to say this situation is not in the same league as the evidence uncovered that sunk the Storm.
However, the Eels were fined in 2015 for breaching the cap across at NRL, Under 20s and second tier levels, so this isn’t as simple as a player being unexpectedly picked for Origin, triggering a payment that wasn’t likely to be taken into consideration.
The NRL are in a tough situation here, especially being that they have just appointed a new CEO in Todd Greenberg.
If they were to allow the Eels to walk away with no loss of competition points, Dogs, Storm and other NRL supporters would blow up deluxe.
It would also send a message that the NRL’s supposed biggest tool to ensure a level playing field was not treated all that seriously.
However if the NRL were to strip the Eels of 20 competition points and end their finals hopes in 2016, it may be seen by some as an overreaction to appease fans of clubs who suffered years and years ago.
I am not a lawyer nor an accountant, I’m just a fan of the game who wants to see each and every side operate under the same rules and laws.
I’m also a fan who would hate to see Eels fans suffer for something a few something they had no control over.
That being said, the NRL cannot allow its salary cap to be flaunted and teams cannot cheat. The Eels, if found guilty, need to pay the price.
Without having access to all the documents and evidence, I believe the Eels are looking down the barrel of a point’s penalty of between 6 and 12 points.
A ten point penalty would send a message that is both loud and clear. Five games worth of points being stripped is a severe penalty, but also doesn’t mean that the Eels are rubbed out of 2016.
Personally, I would be looking at a 6-12 point penalty, and also a 20 point suspended penalty. If the Eels are found guilty of a similar offence in the next ten years, they lose 20 points per season until they can prove they can work within the rules.
I’d love to hear your thoughts below on what the penalty should be. Should they be penalised to the point where 2016 is a write off, will a fine suffice, or do they need to pay a price that won’t end their season but sends a message?
I believe it’s the latter. 6-12 points.