Todd Greenberg, the head of Australia’s National Rugby League, defended the league’s ties to the gambling industry, saying that what the sport needed was a balance between the integrity of the sport and the right of fans to place bets for entertainment. The NRL recently signed a $60 million agreement with Australian sportsbook giant Sportsbet. The league also shares in the profits of a number of gambling businesses thanks to a growing number of percentage-based agreements with such outfits.
Greenberg and Australian Rugby are under pressure due to two unrelated scandals that have led to calls for the NRL to limit its involvement with commercial gambling. First, Wests Tigers center Tim Simona is under investigation by the league and now by a police task force for arranging bets for other individuals on Tigers games. In addition, this same task force is investigating allegations of match-fixing in the sport. Three games are currently under investigation: a match between the Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs, as well as two games between Manly and the Parramatta Eels.
Tim Simona, a native of New Zealand, is a center, halfback, fullback,and wing, who currently plays center for the Tigers. He moved to Australia with his family at the age of 6, and joined the Tigers first-grade squad after playing for the Wests New York City team in 2010.
Dozens of people are being investigated as part of the ongoing probe involving the police task force, the New South Wales Crime Commission, and the NRL’s own internal investigators. Greenberg has been adamant that any individual found guilty of match-fixing or betting inside the game will be banned from the sport for life. Simona will soon have to face an NRL disciplinary panel and may face additional criminal charges stemming from the allegations. However, the NRL chief contends that these are isolated incidents that will be dealt with and no bearing on the league’s business dealings with gambling companies. He believes these cases are no reason to end legal gambling on club sporting events.
Sportsbet recently secured its $60 million renewal with NRL despite stiff competition from competitor Crownbet, who had hoped to outbid the company. The agreement will be in place until 2020 and includes a number of new provisions mandated by Australia’s Association of National Advertisers, such as measures prohibiting ads targeting teenagers. Crownbet has a deal estimated at $10 million per year with the Australian Football League.