Off the Wall

Tomorrow's headlines will be about Benji Marshall being charged with assault - but the real crisis facing the game does not relate to Marshall, or Todd Carney, but the alleged betting rorts of two, and maybe more matches last season.

I was chided by a reader some time ago when I suggested the charging of Ryan Tandy was just the tip of a very large iceberg. But not even I believed it would be as big as it is today - and it may get a whole lot bigger in the coming days.

The issues concerning Marshall and Carney pale into insignificance as far as rugby league is concerned. The allegations of match fixing, or the fixing of aspects of the game on which legal betting takes place, strike at the very integrity of the game.

That is why the NRL needs to move decisively tomorrow to suspend player manager Sam Ayoub from any involvement in NRL player management/contract issues until the serious allegations against him a determined by the courts.

If it does not do so, then Ryan Tandy is entitled to ask why he cannot play for the Bulldogs next weekend?

The argument that there is a difference between players and player managers is nonsense.

A player cannot play in a NRL match without being registered with the NRL. And a player manager cannot represent registered players in contract and other negotiations with NRL clubs unless he is registered by the NRL as well.

If might be a different registration - but it has the same effect.

If it is good enough for the Bulldogs to stand Ryan Tandy down, and the NRL would have stood him down had the club not done so, then the same must happen with Ayoub.

The NRL has a stronger code on player managers than the AFL, which believes the regulation of managers to the player managers association.

Today's Sunday Telegraph story in which Ayoub says he is carrying on as player manager regardless - and holding a meeting with the Bulldogs over player contracts this week ought to be seen as a total snub directed at the NRL.

He cannot be allowed to get away with it.

The game needs, more than at any time in its history, strong and clear leadership. It cannot be seen to be weak in the face of such provocation.

The betting scandal eclipses all else that has been in the headlines. We now know that more than one NRL fixture in 2010 is under scrutiny.

On Friday, the Federal Sports Minister, Senator Mark Arbib, suggested that major sports could reduce the prospects of fraud and rigging by reducing the number of options for betting on a fixture.

That was smart politics. It is something I have suggested in the past.

By making the suggestion Mark Arbib has put the issue firmly where neither the NRL, nor the AFL, nor any other code, want it to be - on the agenda.

There is no way the betting agencies would agree with the suggestion - their turnover is based on the maximum number of options being available for betting before and during games.

And the NRL, more than any other code, would have difficulty enforcing it, given that a majority of NRL clubs now have sponsorship and revenue sharing agreements with betting agencies.

This issue is not going away.

It requires strong and uncompromising leadership from the NRL if it is not to cause lasting and serious damage - and it requires it now.