Bernie Gurr, anointed by Peter Sterling as the man to take the reins at strife-torn Parramatta, believes the club’s salary cap problems are fixable and is interested in the job.
Gurr already has extensive experience as an NRL club CEO, having overseen the Roosters from 1995 to 2003 before shifting to the US to take up senior executive roles. He was shortlisted as a replacement for outgoing NRL boss Dave Smith before Todd Greenberg ultimately got the job.
Speaking on Fox Sports’ Sterlo On The Couch program, Sterling nominated Gurr as the ideal person to take over his beloved Eels following the salary cap scandal. “I know who it should be – it’s Bernie Gurr,” Sterling said. “He’s based in the States, but don’t be fooled by that. He is a pre-eminent thinker when it comes to rugby league. He’s stayed very close to the NRL.”
Speaking from the US, Gurr said he was flattered by the comments and confirmed his interest in a role at Parramatta.
“I’d be interested in exploring it, for sure,” Gurr told Fairfax Media. “No one has reached out to me as yet. Peter is a very respected voice in the game, he has a lot of integrity. Whenever he talks, people are very respectful of what he says because of his knowledge and intelligence on the game. I was very flattered that he even considered I could potentially help Parramatta.
“It should be a powerhouse club. They have everything going for them, a big junior base, a terrific supporter base, a wealthy leagues club. They have one of the better NRL grounds and they will get an even better one when they build them a new one in a couple of years.
“You look at all the criteria you could possibly earmark for a successful Sydney club, Parramatta pretty much ticks every box. They should perennially be a very competitive club, no doubt about it.”
Gurr said the appointment of a strong board and management team at Parramatta could result in a speedy turnaround for the embattled club. “Usually these salary cap [issues] are self inflicted, that’s just the reality,” he said. “You need a strong, competent board and front office to set the path right. Organisations that are consistently well run and competitive every year have good people inside of them. Good boards, front office and coaching staff. If you put good people in those three areas, you can become competitive very quickly.”
Despite his time overseas, Gurr remains one of the game’s best thinkers. He has published several papers on issues affecting rugby league, with his thoughts on the salary cap, the controversial third-party agreement system and player payments more timely now than ever.
Gurr has previously told Fairfax Media the NRL should publish player salaries and pay them out of head office to prevent the system being rorted.
“[The Parramatta scandal] has reinforced those points,” he said. “The salary cap is a must to monitor spending and keep the clubs financially sustainable. Does it need tweaking? Yes it does. All payments should come from the NRL clearing house. There should be a limit on third-party agreements – if you have a salary cap you can’t have a major component that is totally inequitable. There’s no doubt it favours the clubs that have either contacts in the big end of town in Sydney or they are one-team, one-town situations such as the Warriors, Broncos, Storm and, to an extent, the Cowboys.
“For a number of other clubs they don’t have the same TPA capability and that’s not fair because it should be about equity.”
Gurr said the publishing of player salaries would ensure transparency for the game.
“The players are in a public sport that’s very analogous to a public company where they publish salaries and compensation to board members and senior executives,” he said. “These clubs are effectively public assets and it’s not unreasonable to have the salaries published.
“It makes for good theatre, too. People can ask ‘why is your left centre earning $350,000 when my centre killed him last week and is only on $250,000. It adds positive drama and theatre, unlike what we’re hearing now with rorting of the cap.”
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