Burning questions after huge Sharks, Tigers sanctions
The NRL has come down hard on Cronulla and the Wests Tigers, with CEO Todd Greenberg handing out more than $2 million in fines.
In addition, the futures of Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe are in limbo after both were deregistered over separate issues.
So how have the clubs responded and where to next?
Foxsports.com.au looks at the five burning questions.
How have the Tigers and Sharks responded?
The Tigers' response has been one of "shock", with the club stating they will be "vigorously defending this".
The Tigers said they were "extremely disappointed in the process", with the club slamming the NRL over the "wrongful attack on the integrity of the club's CEO".
"The reason the ambassadorship was offered in November 2015 is that then new CEO Justin Pascoe felt that the club had disrespected Robbie and this was a way to show him the respect that Justin felt he deserved as a life member and club legend due to the overwhelming support Robbie had at the time from members and fans," the club said in a statement.
"Most importantly Wests Tigers derive absolutely no advantage from this arrangement. It is not tied in any way to Robbie's playing contract."
As for Cronulla, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the Sharks' chairman Dino Mezzatesta and CEO Barry Russell visited League Central on Wednesday where they were handed the formal breach notices.
"They're disappointed and clearly they've got to prepare for a season in 2019," Greenberg said.
"We had a Commission meeting yesterday which is why we're making these decisions today. We're trying to make them in a time frame to allow clubs to prepare for 2019.
"We understand impact this has on fans, clubs and people's livelihoods and careers."
The Sharks said they would appeal the fine, but have left Shane Flanagan's appeal up to the coach himself.
"The Sharks have offered immediate wellbeing support to Shane and his family and will continue to do so," the club said.
Greenberg said he offered Flanagan the chance to come in and meet face-to-face, but he declined.
Greenberg also said he spoke to Flanagan on the phone which was "a short conversation".
Whether Flanagan would be able to coach in the NRL again, Greenberg said the governing body would "make that decision with all the information in front of us" after the coach's response.
Could the sanctions cripple the Sharks?
Cronulla have been struggling financially of late and posted a $3 million loss from last season, despite a $13 million grant from the NRL.
It meant the club recently laid off 10 staff members in what Russell described at the time as a "business restructure".
The club also has no major sponsor for 2019 and now must factor in a $800,000 fine and possible further salary cap breach sanctions.
"They've got an opportunity to respond (to the sanctions), so it's a preliminary view," Greenberg said.
"They're obviously going to give us some mitigating circumstances, but I can't look at it from the prism of their financial situation, I can only look at it through the prism of the Integrity investigation.
" ... They're due to send us some information about the solvency of the club and their financial and cash flow.
"From what's presented in front of me, I'm confident they'll have the right steps in place for next year."
The Sharks also addressed their financial concerns on Wednesday.
"In relation to the fine imposed and the club financial situation, significant progress has been made over recent weeks, shoring up our financial security, with the Sharks confident that they will navigate the current challenges," the club said.
What's the problem with Robbie Farah's Tigers arrangement?
Post-career arrangements between clubs and players must be declared and approved by the NRL, otherwise they go on the salary cap.
The agreement between Farah and the club which was signed in September 2016 only recently became apparent to the NRL.
The NRL said they made enquiries and looked into the contract.
"We have obtained documents which showed the club entered an agreement to pay Robbie Farah to act as an ambassador at the club when he retired from playing," Greenberg said.
"The games rules are very, very clear on these arrangements. Any commitment to make such a payment should have been disclosed and it should have been included in the salary cap.
"The club failed to do this. The club then compounded its conduct by submitting a misleading application to the NRL in relation to the salary cap treatment of money paid to Robbie when he left the club.
"We feel like the club and Justin have misled the NRL around this ambassador agreement and we have to provide consistent sanctions on individuals and clubs throughout. We've done that through other clubs and we have to do it again."
NRL chief operating officer Nick Weeks said there was a provision in the rules which enabled clubs to have money excluded from the salary cap where players were moved on due to "reputational reasons".
"When Robbie left, the club paid him money that he was owed under his contract and they aproached us to exclude some of those payments on the basis he was a destablising influence on the club," Weeks said.
"What they didn't disclose when they made that application was the fact the club had earlier entered into ambassador agreement to bring him back."
Greenberg stressed there is no suggestion that Farah has done anything wrong.
How is the Tigers' salary cap affected?
Unless reduced on appeal, Farah's $639,000 ambassador agreement will be included in the club's 2019 salary cap which will have ramifications on the roster.
As it stands, the club have 28 registered players in their top 30.
New recruit Zane Musgrove is not included in that list with his contract yet to be registered with the NRL. He also faces an uncertain future with indecent assault charges hanging over his head.
"A salary cap imposition of more than $500,000 is a massive imposition on the club and has a huge outcome for the way their roster is structured," Greenberg said.
"I don't have an intimate knowledge of their salary cap. I know they have some space, but it'll be a significant issue they'll have to deal with."
Whether the club will need to cut players remains to be seen, but the club won't be in a position to make anymore signings.
What happens next?
Both Cronulla and Wests Tigers will have until January 31 to respond to the breaches. If they do not, they will be enacted.
Both Flanagan and Pascoe will not be permitted to act in an official capacity with the club pending a final determination.
The Sharks have already announced that assistanct coaches Jim Dymock and John Morris will take over from Flanagan in the interim, but it's unclear whether they will remain in the role after the NRL's deadline.
The Sharks will need to start looking at their options in for the long term, with Trent Barrett one of the contenders to take over.