Sharks Football Club CEO Barry Russell says the future of coach Shane Flanagan will not be determined until the outcome of the NRL’s investigation is known.
Flanagan is facing allegations of contacting Sharks officials about player recruitment during his year-long suspension in 2014 for his role in the infamous peptides scandal. He is also under heavy scrutiny for salary cap discrepancies that have surfaced since he returned to the club.
Russell self-reported an undeclared third-party player payment, a relatively minor indiscretion, to the NRL in June.
But, as part of the NRL’s ongoing salary cap probe, emails scanned from the Sharks’ internet server were reportedly found showing Flanagan had communicated with the club during his 2014 suspension.
It has been reported that as well as emails, text messages were found with Flanagan communicating with senior staff on issues relating to the 2015 season, when he was set to return.
Cronulla could face the reality of having no coach from Tuesday if the ARL Commission finds Flanagan committed the alleged breaches and imposes sanctions, with the integrity unit to hand down it’s findings at a meeting in Sydney.
Russell said the NRL investigation into the club’s salary cap issues would not be finalised until the new year.
“It came to light a couple of weeks ago that there was an issue around 2014 as well as the salary cap component. That issue was being investigated by the NRL. And to date it is pure speculation. We do not have any further details until we sit down with the NRL and an outcome is determined,” Russell said.
“Shane, obviously with all the media attention has been quite intense. No one likes to be in the papers. But Shane is our coach, he’s contracted for next year. The playing group are solid, they’re working hard and training is on again tomorrow.
“[Flanagan has] done a wonderful job. And he’ll continue to coach the team. It will be training and business as usual for us. I’ve met with the players today, I’ve met with the staff today and I’ve relayed this same message. It’s important for us to stay focused on our preparation for next year as a team and also importantly for our staff off the field to keep focused and work as hard as we can.
“It’s not ideal that we’re continually in the media. We are out there looking for major jersey sponsors and it doesn’t help.”
As well as any potential punishment for salary cap cheating, the Sharks could also face financial penalties regarding Flanagan.
When the Sharks were fined $1million for the peptides scandal, the NRL suspended $400,000 of it on the condition Flanagan had no contact with the club.
The latest dramas have come at a particularly uncomfortable time for Cronulla. The club has just laid off 10 non-football staff and its stadium rights and jerseys remain sponsorless.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported four companies are in deep negotiations with the club, with Sharks officials hopeful the adverse publicity won’t scare them off.
Some good news for Cronulla is that Flanagan’s son, Kyle, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month that will keep him at the club until the end of 2021, does not have a get-out clause if his father is not the coach.