NRL club tensions rise after proposal to rein in agents leaked
An email urging the ARL Commission to clamp down on player agents and the influence they have in the game has emerged as the latest threat to the fragile peace that exists between club bosses. The email — obtained by The Australian — was written by Cronulla chief executive Dino Mezzatesta and was meant to be signed by club bosses before being sent to ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys and players’ union boss Clint Newton. However, Mezzatesta late on Thursday pulled the email after it was leaked to agents and some of the media. Not surprisingly, player managers were outraged with the tone of the email and the suggestion that they were responsible for creating “divide, distrust and dishonesty” in the game.
Mezzatesta declined to comment on Thursday night. However, the letter that accompanied the email outlined a number of steps the clubs believed were necessary to regulate an industry that causes angst in clubland. Among the recommendations were that clubs no longer pay an agent’s fees on behalf of the players — the clubs wanted the transactions to be paid directly between the players and agents.
They also wanted the ARL Commission to charge agents a percentage of turnover for their annual fees and require them to pay a security deposit of $25-50,000, which they would be forced to forgo if they were to lose their licence.
There was a request for tighter control over agents by preventing those who lose their registration remaining a silent partner in a business while friends or families became the face of the operation.
The letter also proposed that stiffer penalties be introduced for club officials who continued to deal with deregistered agents, and suggested that clubs were doing all the legwork for players while agents enjoyed the financial benefit.
What started as an attempt to rein in player agents was aborted after it became apparent that not all the clubs were on board. Mezzatesta is believed to have parked the plan for now, giving him and other club officials more time to work on reaching a consensus on the way forward.
The more immediate plan will be to rebuild some of the trust between club officials that has been lost over the past 24 hours after a private email found its way into the hands of the very agents it was taking aim at.
The tension in clubland emerged on the same day that Andrew Abdo was confirmed as the game’s permanent chief executive and spoke about a new era of trust between head office and the game’s stakeholders. He immediately finds himself dealing with a brushfire at club level over agents and the influence they continue to wield.