Sharks CEO Barry Russell (left) and captain Paul Gallen (right) speak to the media after Shane Flanagan was deregistered from the NRL. Picture: Brett Costello
Sharks CEO Barry Russell (left) and captain Paul Gallen (right) speak to the media after Shane Flanagan was deregistered from the NRL. Picture: Brett Costello

Buzz: Sharks CEO on outer for being honest

Rugby league is in danger of losing one of its most honourable and respected administrators.

The timing could not be any worse as the code battles an image crisis from an off-season of scandal.

The future of Cronulla Sharks chief executive Barry Russell has been the subject of much speculation since he chose to self-report the club's salary cap rorting to the NRL.

A victim of his honesty.

Russell is now on the outer to such an extent he was asked to leave a club board meeting last week while discussions were taking place to appoint a replacement coach for Shane Flanagan.

Seriously, what is this game becoming?

After a shocking off-season of shame - the worst in memory - we're now in danger of losing a really decent, ethical and principled man. This is a terrible story.

When Russell replaced Lyall Gorman as Sharks CEO in February last year the former Rothmans Medal-winning halfback carried out a business compliance check on the Sharks. Like any good CEO would.

He hired Jamie L'Oste Brown, a former NRL salary cap auditor, as head of compliance and integrity.

Within weeks some highly suspect dealings were uncovered.

Russell could have chosen to ignore it and grabbed the nearest paper shredder.

The NRL would have been none the wiser.

Instead he went to the Sharks board with a recommendation to self-report to the NRL.

Directors unanimously backed him, expecting leniency for their honesty and, at worst, a $50,000 fine.

 

Sharks CEO Barry Russell could be lost to the game.
Sharks CEO Barry Russell could be lost to the game.

Instead the integrity unit sent in a team of forensic experts to scan the club's internet server for emails and phone records over the last five years.

As a result Flanagan lost his job and four directors have since resigned.

Now Russell is copping the blame. Honest Barry.

It's his fault the club can't sign a shorts, sleeve or major jersey sponsor.

Try getting corporate support at the height of a salary cap scandal that includes allegations of fake invoices, dodgy bank loans to pay players and other suspicious activity.

These are issues so serious they could potentially attract the attention of fraud squad police and the Offices of Liquor and Gaming. When uncovered, it could not be ignored. There are other hurdles, too.

Try walking into a board room of a major company to pitch for sponsorship and tell them your marquee players are Andrew Fifita and Josh Dugan.

The real reason the club can't find a sponsor can be traced back to long before Russell quit his role as national sales boss for Harvey Norman Commercial to join the Sharks.

It is all about its rotten culture from the past, something Russell is now trying to fix.

The cap rorting and the behaviour of the players.

Sharks CEO Barry Russell (left) and captain Paul Gallen (right) speak to the media after Shane Flanagan was deregistered from the NRL. Picture: Brett Costello
Sharks CEO Barry Russell (left) and captain Paul Gallen (right) speak to the media after Shane Flanagan was deregistered from the NRL. Picture: Brett Costello

Dugan getting kicked out of Cronulla RSL for swearing in front of women.

Then his appearance on a video podcast with Fifita and a couple of UFC boofheads.

Fifita's very public blow-up with coach Flanagan last year. The more recent brawl at Cronulla Sailing Club that resulted in the entire team being banned from the venue.

This is why the CEO can't get a business to commit to the front of the jersey, the shorts or the sleeves.

Think about the recent headlines generated by Ben Barba, Dylan Walker, Jarryd Hayne, the Bulldogs' Mad Monday and Jack de Belin that have trashed the game's image.

It makes it even harder to attract any corporate support for all rugby league, not just the Sharks.

And even harder to sit back and allow Barry Russell to be lost to the game.

Rugby league, in fact, could do with more people like him.

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News Corp Australia