LEAGUE SUPER PENRITH NIGHTLEAD
By Bruce Walkley of AAP
SYDNEY, Jan 31 AAP - Super League club Penrith no longer employs
its footballers, according to evidence and submissions before the
Supreme Court of New South Wales today.
The club's assistant chief executive, Mark Levy, said under
cross-examination by Bernard Gross QC that the club had handed over
its football operations to a company called AHPE Pty Ltd.
In submissions later in the day, Gross said this meant the
players were now employed by AHPE, named in agreements between
Penrith, News Limited and its subsidiary Star League Pty Ltd as the
licensee of the Penrith franchise entering a team in the proposed
Super League competition.
Gross was appearing for Australian captain Brad Fittler and his
team-mate Matt Sing, who have signed with Eastern Suburbs, operator
of the Sydney City Roosters, in a case in which Penrith claims it
still has the two players under contract to play the 1996 season
The players contend they have terminated their contracts with
Penrith because the club decided to play in Super League, rather
the Australian Rugby League/NSW Rugby League competition, this
Counsel for Penrith, on the other hand, have based much of their
case on a cntention that the contracts do not oblige the club to
play in the two leagues' competition, but only to pay the players
to play rugby league football.
Bernard Coles QC, for the club, argued in closing submissions
today that "this is a pay and play contract", where the players'
obligations were to play the game and the only obligation on the
club was to pay the players.
He said references in the contracts to the NSWRL and the ARL
were only incidental and should apply only in years when the club
chose to play in their competition.
Coles submitted that if Fittler and Sing were performing their
obligations to Penrith, they would be able to play in its Super
Justice Kim Santow then questioned whether the legal position
could be construed to be that the team was fielded by AHPE Pty Ltd,
meaning Penrith had procured another entity to field the team,
which "may be outside the ambit of the contract".
He asked Gross for an outline of what his case was in this
respect, to which Gross replied that under agreements between News,
Star League and Penrith:
. AHPE Pty Ltd had the right to operate the team in Super League
as the licensee;
. AHPE conducted the business of participating in the
competition and maintained coaching and support staff and the team
. The club had released its players to the licensee;
. Levy had given evidence that the club had handed over its
football operations to AHPE;
. The club had "in effect given away its tradition and controls"
to AHPE, on which it had a minority representation on the board;
. The club had released its players to AHPE or had induced its
players and potential players to sign with the licensee company;
The players' employment contracts were with the licensee
company, and were not personal but could be assigned to another
Coles suggested Gross's arguments had been put forward as "a new
case" not set out in the players' statement of the issues at the
start of the trial.
Justice Santow said that in fairness, Gross should advise Coles
tonight the details of his submissions so that he could either meet
any new case, or submit that he could not reasonably be expected to
do so, when the trial resumed tomorrow morning.
+++ The opinions expressed in this message are my own personal +++
+++ views and do not reflect the official views of Super League +++