Storm case may be heard before finals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm case may be heard before finals

21/05/2010 08:25:53 PM Comments (0)

The legal stoush over salary cap penalties imposed on the Melbourne Storm can be resolved well before the finals series, a lawyer for the NRL believes.

The Storm's four independent directors are seeking an injunction to restrain the NRL from imposing the penalties, which include stripping the club of two premierships.

They argue the penalties are in breach of NRL rules and the decision-making process was not fair.

In April, the Storm was stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships, banned from earning any points in the 2010 season and handed large fines for paying its players $1.7 million over the salary cap for the past five years.

At a directions hearing in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday, NRL barrister Tony Meagher SC said the Storm had agreed to the penalties at a meeting in Sydney on April 22, the day they were imposed.

Mr Meagher said the club was given opportunities to go through "normal processes", but it had forfeited that right by saying it wanted to be heard at the April meeting.

He asked that Valimanda, Storm's parent company which is owned by News Limited and was represented at the April 22 meeting, be involved in the legal proceedings.

The court heard a trial may take place in July or August.

Outside court, NRL solicitor Tony O'Reilly said he was confident the case could be resolved well before the finals start on September 12.

"We would be pretty confident we would be able to get it done in July, and that will get it all over a long time before the semi-finals, and it will be all sorted out a couple of months ahead," he said.

Mr O'Reilly said the NRL had no issue with Valimanda but wanted it to be included in the case.

"The NRL's decision was imposed on the club as a whole which comprises the two entities. Therefore they should be part of the court process, so that everybody is bound," he said.

Purple Melbourne Storm scarves added colour to the ranks of business suits in the large, ornate courtroom packed with lawyers, barristers and media.

About 10 Storm supporters sat in court.

A lawyer representing 116 Storm members, Peter Gordon, said he may seek to be heard in the proceeding on their behalf.

"At this point we think that the interests of the members are well and truly represented by the independent directors and the actions that they have taken," he said outside court.

"It may well be that particularly given some of the statements that were made in court today by counsel for the NRL that we will wish to take a more prominent role as the case proceeds."

Prior to the hearing, a supporters' group named Thunderstruck unfurled a banner on the court steps reading: "Support the Storm loud and proud."

A spokesman for the group, Nicolas Bishop, said the group wanted to back the directors.

"We just want to point out this is not against News Limited, this is against the NRL and David Gallop," he said.

"This is a message to say that we are hurting and that we believe there should be an audit on all clubs, not just one."

The matter will return to court on June 4 for a case conference.

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