Off the Wall

It was inevitable that the signing of Greg Inglis by the Broncos would raise questions about how he can be fitted under the NRL salary cap restrictions.

And the greatest part of the inevitably relates to the fact that the Broncos, the Storm, and half the NRL, have one owner - News Limited.

The Broncos have responded to the claims of disbelief from Sydney club officials with an outline of the players they have released, or are releasing.

I have not the slightest idea whether or not the Broncos have circumvented the salary cap, but if they have they are surely foolish, given the inevitable scrutiny the recruitment brings.

What some CEO's seem to have forgotten is that the Broncos will have something like $450,000 available to spend when Israel Folau leaves in a couple of months time. And they have offloaded three or four regular first graders - but they have recruited Ben Hannant and upgraded the contracts of any number of their younger players.

That said, it is not unreasonable to question how the Broncos can afford Inglis...or how the Storm were actually in the race to retrain him.

The Broncos are in a better position than any other NRL club to benefit from the new concessions for veteran players and the marquee player allowances that will be available to all clubs in 2011.

And the Broncos are better placed than any club to benefit from approved sponsorship agreements.

The Broncos are the one team in a large city - the club's catchment area contains a population of something 1.5 million...and the club gets maximum media exposure with a live Friday night game more than any other club, and the strong support of the one daily newspaper in Brisbane.

It also has the largest number of season ticket holders - and average match day crowds double that of just about every other club.

However, even the Broncos are not travelling as well as they were last year when it comes to crowds. The Broncos financial report for the first half of the year was released yesterday - with profit down by close to 50 per cent.

The Broncos home crowds for the period to June 30 were down - from an average of 35,500 to around 32,500 - probably due to the team's average start to the season. An average crowd of 32,500? Many clubs would be happy to get a total like that in two or three games.

The simple reality is that for as long as News owns the Storm, and controls the Broncos, questions about favoured treatment and conflicts of interest will abound.

There is only one answer - News needs to exit ownership of the game as soon as possible.

Would the QRL kindly take note?