Blame game begins over NRL’s financial woes
As the game sits in a state of disrepair, departing South Sydney chief Shane Richardson has taken aim at former ARLC chair John Grant for the game's current financial woes.
The league official became the first high-profile NRL figure to permanently leave his job as a result of the premiership postponement due to the virus, which is tipped to cost both the game and its clubs millions.
Richardson, who was due to leave the Rabbitohs at the end of next year, will remain around as a consultant but will no longer be on the books full-time.
Not long after announcing his resignation, Richardson highlighted mistakes made by previous ARLC chairman John Grant during his six years in the job.
Speaking to the The Sydney Morning Herald, Richardson said Grant "capitulated" to the clubs in 2015 when he increased their annual grants to 130 per cent of the salary cap.
Grant caved to the club's demands in an attempt to stay on their good side and keep his job. The decision proved to be a popular one at the time with club CEOs but the move was frowned upon by NRL executives because the game couldn't afford it.
A year later Grant was pushed out by the clubs and the NRL was made to pay for the decision in the long run, according to Richardson.
"The game couldn't afford the 130 per cent," Richardson who was the NRL's head of game development at the time said.
"We said this to John Grant. But there was pressure on him from a cartel of clubs wanting more money; from player agents; from people inside the game; all wanting more money.
"We knew things had to change to make the game viable — but the clubs didn't want to hear it. When the $13m was put up there in front of them, they grabbed it. It shouldn't have been a decision just about the clubs. It should have been for the whole game.
"Greed set in."
Richardson said while Grant had great business acumen he failed to grasp the bigger picture and went into self-preservation mode.
"I'm just not sure he understood how difficult the politics of rugby league were and how vested interests were always going to be difficult to control," Richardson said.
"I think he thought he could talk sense into them. When it got to the crunch, and he realised he couldn't, I honestly believe he panicked.
"I'm sure he never got any money out of what he did. But when you are faced with those sorts of decisions, you need to cop the crap from club land, from sections of the media — because we had a real plan."
Richardson is one of the NRL's longest-serving administrators, having been at Cronulla through the Super League war and in charge of Penrith when they won the premiership in 2003.
He joined Souths shortly after as chief executive, and guided them out of turmoil and into financial security under the new private ownership model.
He then helped them to their drought-breaking title in 2014, before joining the NRL for a year and returning as the Rabbitohs head of football in early 2016.