Revealed: Secret document contributed to Greenberg demise
This is the secret document that captures the mounting mistrust of the 16 clubs towards the NRL - and played a role in the demise of the governing body's chief executive Todd Greenberg.
The Sunday Mail has obtained a three-page letter, written by club CEOs, which lashes Greenberg's regime, accuses the NRL of lacking financial transparency and failing to build a war chest to protect the code during the coronavirus crisis.
The document is the result of two years of analysis by NRL clubs, which began in 2018. It paints a picture of NRL club disenchantment as they hurtled towards a collision course with Greenberg, who resigned last month after a four-year tenure.
For months, the 16 CEOs have been reluctant to speak publicly on their tumultuous relationship with the NRL, who they claim refused to disclose the code's full financial picture during the COVID-19 saga.
Now, highly regarded Souths boss Blake Solly opens up about tensions with Greenberg and the formulation of the document which delivered a reality check to League Central.
Its title, "Premier Rugby League", suggests a Super League-style revolt.
Solly stresses the document was never intended to be a warning shot that NRL clubs were threatening to break away.
Instead, he says it was designed as a way to work hand-in-glove with ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys, who has effectively become a peacemaker for NRL clubs.
"The truth is the clubs were frustrated by the lack of transparency from Todd and the NRL on the game's finances," Solly told The Sunday Mail.
"We constantly asked questions and the NRL wouldn't answer them satisfactorily.
"As a club collective, we put together this document during this coronavirus process to help Peter V'landys and clarify what the clubs wanted to see in the future management of the competition.
"I want to make it clear there was no threat of a breakaway league. We are 100 per cent behind Peter V'landys.
"The document is an accumulation of all the clubs' ideas. We have worked on how we want the NRL to look like, how do we become stronger as clubs and how do we help Peter V'landys in changing the way head office works.
"There was a building level of distrust as things started to unravel. The NRL didn't have a balance sheet to get us through this crisis."
The document, leaked to The Sunday Mail, blasts the NRL for having "expanded beyond its core remit and operating without a coherent strategy".
It also criticises the organisation for becoming "bureaucratic and enlarged, detached from its shareholders and responsive to external agendas/campaigns".
That is a veiled reference to League Central having employed more than 400 staff under Greenberg with operating costs of $182 million per year - or $500,000 a day to run the NRL.
The letter makes clear the clubs want a greater say in the running of the game. A key feature of the document is a profit-and-loss budget which shows how the NRL could make a $40 million surplus annually.
NRL clubs are angered by the suggestion they each receive $13 million annually. Solly claims the figure is closer to $11.5 million when moneys paid back to the NRL are factored in.
That includes a $750,000 club payment to run the NRL's controversial digital arm and funding to the RLPA's player retirement fund.
An investigation of that fund during the COVID-19 saga found a $10 million black hole.
"The NRL's P and L (Profit and Loss statement) showed they had paid the retirement fund, but no money went to it," Solly said.
"The NRL, through its benchmarking survey, gets every single line item of the clubs' profit and losses. They wanted all our commercial information. Yet we only got a helicopter view of the NRL's finances … even though we, as clubs, are stakeholders.
"Everyone in clubland understands that we have a responsibility to be self-sufficient but we have never known how much of the money is generated by the NRL and what they do with it.
"Everyone is really supportive of Peter coming in and the commitments he has made to us."
V'landys said he is determined to have a solid working relationship with the NRL clubs.
"I want the NRL clubs to get every cent they deserve - that is my commitment to them," he said.
"Everyone is working together. We're working as a family with the clubs and players. I couldn't be happier about that."
PREMIER RUGBY LEAGUE
How clubs wanted NRL funds spent in a projected financial spreadsheet
Broadcast (including digital arm) $250m
Major Events (finals and GF) $20m
Major Events management $8m
Club Travel/Accommodation $5m
NRL Admin and Integrity $15m
Community and Welfare programs $12m
16 clubs (at $13,562,000 per annum) $217m
NRL SURPLUS $40m
Originally published as Revealed: Secret document contributed to Greenberg demise