Meanwhile De Berlin and his football club intend on him returning to the field immediately if a favourable decision comes from the Federal Court. Should that be the case, the NRL is indicating they will consider an appeal.
Did someone say “trainwreck”
Telstra threatened to tear up $15m NRL contract over player behaviour
By Adrian Proszenko
May 2, 2019
Telstra sensationally threatened to walk away from its $15 million naming-rights sponsorship of the NRL if the governing body didn’t take a strong stance on player behaviour.
Summer of woe: the Jack de Belin case was one of several which prompted Telstra to consider pulling its sponsorship of the NRL. CREDIT:AAP
The NRL implemented its “no fault” stand-down policy, the legitimacy of which is being tested in the Federal Court, in February for players charged with serious criminal offences. The new protocols were brought in to help allay sponsor concerns about off-field incidents which had damaged the game and their own brands by association.
Rugby League Central is currently attempting to renew eight sponsorship contracts, worth a combined $12 million, that will expire at the end of the season. Many of those firms expressed concerns about renewing due to a spate of incidents that prompted NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg to label the off season a “trainwreck”.
The Herald can reveal the game’s biggest backer, Telstra, threatened to tear up its contract due to the damage the dramas were causing its brand. Telstra had signed on as the competition naming-rights partner until the end of the current broadcast deal, which expires after the 2022 season. The telecommunications giant is also a digital partner of the NRL in a lucrative deal understood to be worth about $20 million.
Rugby league’s so-called ‘summer of hell’ put intense pressure on the relationship between the parties, with Telstra executives threatening to pull the plug if the NRL didn’t take strong action.
The NRL did that with a new policy, under which any player any charged with an offence that carries a maximum prison term of 11 years or more will be automatically stood down. Greenberg also has the discretionary power to stand down players charged with offences below that threshold. To date, St George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin has been automatically suspended, while Greenberg has used his discretion to ban Penrith playmaker Tyrone May and Manly centre Dylan Walker.
De Belin is challenging the validity of the new protocols, which were the subject of a four-day Federal Court hearing last month. Justice Melissa Perry is expected to deliver her finding in coming days.
It's understood the NRL's new protocols placated nervous Telstra executives. Asked whether the firm considered severing ties, a Telstra spokeperson said: "The individual cases are a matter for the courts and the policy changes announced at the beginning of the season were welcomed."
Speaking at the NRL’s season launch, Telstra’s executive director of marketing, Jeremy Nicholas, lauded the league’s new policy. In a statement issued to the Herald shortly afterwards, Nicholas said: “The policy changes announced last week are a huge step in the right direction and we congratulate the NRL on their strong stance, reflecting community standards and moving closer to the values that Telstra upholds.
“We have full confidence in the NRL and the commission to effect real, positive cultural change within the game.”
In affidavits tendered in the de Belin Federal Court case, Greenberg feared incidents such as the NSW forward’s sexual assault case could cost the game "hundreds of millions of dollars" in fees paid by broadcasters to televise the competition. The present five-year television deal is worth $1.8 billion and expires in 2022. Negotiations for the next rights deal are likely to ramp up from next season and the incumbent partners, Nine and Foxtel, had expressed concerns about a ratings dip due to the off-field dramas.
“A downturn in ratings will ultimately lead to lowering of the value of the broadcast rights, which given the length of the broadcast contracts has the potential to cause losses to the NRL in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Greenberg stated in his affidavit.
De Belin, currently training with his teammates on full pay, will make an immediate return to the field if he receives a favourable outcome from the Federal Court. Should that be the case, the Australian Rugby League Commission will consider an appeal, a move that will further prolong the saga.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/telstr ... 51jhb.html