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Angry clubs chiefs to vent frustrations on ACC drug allegations | The Australian

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NRL

Angry clubs chiefs to vent frustrations on ACC drug allegations

NRL clubs will take their search for answers all the way to the independent commission this week as frustration over the game's handling of the drug and match-fixing saga threatens to overshadow the body's one-year anniversary.

A day after ARL Commission chief executive Dave Smith fronts angry club chief executives at his maiden meeting tomorrow, chairmen will get their chance to address the issue at the commission's inaugural annual general meeting, to be held in Sydney on Thursday.

It is understood the AGM will include a forum involving chairmen and commissioners. There seems little doubt the Australian Crime Commission report, which has cast a pall over all sport in this country, will get an airing.

The clubs are considering whether to take legal action as a result of the damage caused by the ACC report, in particular the impact it has had on current and potential sponsors. Cronulla has been among the worst affected.

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Sharks general manager of marketing and communications Patrick Woods told Sponsorship News the club was close to inking a deal with a new stadium sponsor but the ACC report prompted a breakdown in negotiations.

It is understood the impact could amount to as much as $2 million. The Sharks are also set to begin the season without a major or sleeve sponsor.

"It's obviously the topic of the moment," Canberra chairman John McIntyre said. "There will be discussion about that. I haven't spoken to everybody but I would be very, very surprised if it isn't (discussed)."

The chief executives will be first up and they are expected to bare their teeth at tomorrow's meeting, also in Sydney.

Most of Smith's time has been devoted to dealing with the ACC report, which claimed drug use, match-fixing and organised crime were rife in Australian sport. Rugby league has been fingered as the biggest offender, a claim strengthened by suggestions six clubs were implicated in the ACC report.

The Australian attempted to contact Smith yesterday without success. It was left to former acting NRL chief executive Shane Mattiske to back Smith to handle the disgruntled clubs. "I'm confident he will (handle it)," Mattiske said. "He's already demonstrated his business skills and his leadership skills. It's a really important meeting ... I know it's a meeting Dave's looking forward to."

Mattiske said he could understand the club's frustrations but added the investigation was sensitive and was still ongoing.

"It's an opportunity for us to discuss the process of the investigations and provide the clubs with an update on where the game is positioned in relation to supporting those and the other measures we're looking to implement to deal with the issues that were exposed through the ACC report," Mattiske said.

"We can't ignore those issues. We need to act on those issues but I understand the frustration. It's a frustration I think that a lot of fans and the clubs and anyone who is passionate about sport shares ... details around who and what has exactly has happened hasn't yet been disclosed.

"There's a limited amount of information being provided to each of the respective sports' governing bodies." The clubs will also be subject to a presentation from Tony Whitlam QC, who will oversee the establishment of the NRL's integrity unit.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is visiting all 16 clubs and today will address players and officials at Penrith.

"Everyone understands that there is confidentiality that exists around the ASADA investigation," Mattiske said.

"However, what we will be talking about is the measures that the game is putting in place to deal with the issues that have been identified publicly through the Australian Crime Commission report and that's an important thing for us to do.

"What we're talking about is the formalisation of a permanent integrity unit in the game and a range of other measures aimed to control the involvement of professional sports scientists in our club and the distribution of supplements to players."

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