New blue: Parramatta may be flying on the field but a fresh round of infighting has commenced off it.Directors at Parramatta are asking for their annual payments to be doubled in a move that has sparked a fresh round of tension behind the scenes at a club resurgent on the field but continuing to be riven by factionalism off it.
The Parramatta Leagues Club board on Tuesday released their resolutions to members ahead of next month’s annual general meeting and among a series of significant mooted changes at Pirtek Stadium is a pay hike for the seven directors.
Members will gather on May 5 and be asked to vote on a proposal to increase each director’s honorarium from $10,000 to $20,000 each year.
There are also two major constitutional changes that could be ticked off if approved by 75 per cent of the members.
Firstly, the board headed by premiership winner Steve Sharp wants elections to be held every three years rather than the present two in an effort to provide some stability to an organisation beset by internal wrangling and power struggles in recent years.
And there is also a bid to install an eighth ‘‘independent’’ director – to be appointed by the board.
However, it is the proposed spike in pay for chairman Sharp, deputy Tom Issa and other directors Peter Serrao, Robert Sassen, Lawrence Shepherd, Mario Libertini and Geoff Gerard that has raised eyebrows in some quarters.
Sharp’s rivals from the camp of Roy Spagnolo – the ex-chairman banned for two years from being a director and whose reign is the centre of a NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing investigation – have seized on the proposal to issue a scathing attack on the former second-rower.
In an email sent to Sharp by his ex-teammate and Spagnolo associate Terry Leabeater and since widely circulated around Parramatta it is alleged that the board originally intended to increase the chairman’s honorarium to $65,000 with a view to making the post a full-time job.
However, that claim was refuted on Tuesday by new Parramatta Leagues Club chief executive Bevan Paul, who drew up the pay rises after consulting Leagues Clubs Australia CEO Peter Turnbull on industry standards.
‘‘They came back with some numbers and I put those to the board and the board agreed with putting an increased honorarium (for all directors) to the members,’’ Paul said.
‘‘No one was really keen to increase the chairman’s honorarium. It was never going to go up to $65,000 and in fact the number wasn’t $65,000, it was $60,000. That’s what the benchmarking came back as. The directors never asked for any particular number.’’
The $20,000 honorarium that members will vote on would, for instance, be more than western Sydney rivals Canterbury pay their directors although their chairmen receive much higher fees. Bulldogs Leagues Club board members receive $12,000 a year but the chairman, George Peponis, gets $50,000 and vice-chairman Arthur Coorey receives $25,000. The Bulldogs football club pays directors a $4000 allowance and $8000 to those on the executive, while chairman Ray Dib gets $70,000 a year to conduct his duties.
By comparison South Sydney and Wests Tigers pay no allowance their board members.
The proposal, and then Sharp’s comments in a story published by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, set off the attack by Leabeater.
The Eels premiership-winning prop made a series of explosive allegations in the email sent to Sharp on Sunday and issued an expletive-ridden text message on Tuesday to the chairman that has also done the rounds at Parramatta.
Reacting to Sharp’s suggestion that ‘‘some background noises’’ remained at the Eels despite their strong start to the season Leabeater took aim at the perceived reference to Spagnolo, who he helped rise to power at Parramatta in 2009 before he was ousted by the Sharp-led ticket last year.
‘‘What you just said about Roy in the SMH article Sharpie means we part friendship permanently, ’’ Leabeater wrote in the text. ‘‘You are a f***ing disgrace denigrating the reputation of the greatest asset financially this club has ever had…I am now your worst enemy.’’
In his earlier email he wrote to Sharp: “Step back take a breath and have a look at the trail of destruction in your teams wake and the scenario that is about to unfold in front of you when you trot out these ludicrous proposed motions.”
Among the allegations raised by Leabeater in the email to Sharp included a claim that the chairman and deputy Issa had been banned from the dressing room by coach Brad Arthur over claims of non-payment of third-party sponsorship to players.
Eels chief executive Scott Seward said the claims about third-party payments were ‘‘factually incorrect’’ and that no one had been blocked from entering the dressing room. Instead, he said a new protocol had been put in place this year by Arthur to keep non-players out of the room until 15 minutes after full-time.
‘‘I don’t think it’s unreasonable. It’s a place of employment, it’s about being professional as a football club,’’ Seward said. ‘‘But no one is banned.’’
Sharp did not return calls.
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