Cash scandal could rock Oz rugby

Force players are entagled in secret payments from a top Perth fuel technology company.

Matt Giteau, Australia’s most expensive recruit, is the most high profile of the group who were said to be lured to the Force through huge offers and share inducements involving Firepower.

The Sydney Morning Herald has information that the chief executive of the Force, Peter O’Meara, was directly involved in introducing the Firepower sponsor Tim Johnston to at least one player-manager. Under the protocols, no state union is to be involved in facilitating, procuring or arranging third-party deals as an inducement to sign any player without Australian Rugby Union approval.

The Herald has also seen documents that refer to tens of thousands of dollars in additional payments to players involving potential agreements with Firepower, with O’Meara’s signiture appearing at the bottom of one of them.

But he denies that offers had been underwritten and said no meetings had been facilitated between players or their agents and Firepower.

“Any arrangement that Firepower has negotiated with sports people, Western Force, ARU or cricket or racing, they have all been done through that organisation, not through me,” he said. “I haven’t facilitated any of those relationships.”

But some of the deals would appear to have problems, some players being owed tens of thousands of dollars.

Firepower cash and shares are thought to be the major contributor to Giteau’s contract, which at $4.5 million over three years, is the biggest in rugby’s history. Giteau last week confirmed he had been paid.

The Force’s ability to lure top Australian players has long been viewed with suspicion by the ARU and other Super 14 franchises, with the Perth outfit being fined $110,000 for the manner in which they allegedly wooed Waratahs forward Al Kanaar.