Premiers Melbourne Storm have been stripped of two NRL
premierships and fined a total of $1.6 million after being found
guilty of long-term salary cap breaches.
NRL chief executive David Gallop announced they would also not be allowed to accrue any premiership points in the 2010 season.
Gallop said the Storm had been found to have rorted the salary cap by at least $1.7 million over five years.
"They had a long term system of effectively two sets of books and the elaborate lengths they have gone through to cover this up has been extraordinary," said Gallop.
While Melbourne lost their titles from the 2007 and 2009 seasons Gallop said neither losing grand finalists Manly or Parramatta would assume those titles.
The Storm were also stripped of three minor premierships.
"The club has furthermore been fined $500,000 and will be forced to return $1.1 million in prizemoney with the prizemoney being distributed evenly among the other 15 clubs," said Gallop.
The investigations revealed the Storm maintained a dual contract system, with the club confirming on Wednesday that side letters promising extra payments were stored in a secret file.
"The most damning indictment is the systematic attempt by persons within the club to conceal payments from the salary cap auditor and, it would now seem certain from the club's board and from its owners, on an ongoing basis," Gallop said.
"It was through this system that they were able to attract and retain some of the biggest names in rugby league.
"In doing so they have let down the game, the players and the fans of the Melbourne Storm."
Gallop added the Storm need to quickly find a way to rectify the situation to have any chance of regaining their status in the competition.
"Certainly by the 2011 season they need to be operating within the salary cap and how they do that I'm not sure at this stage," he said.
In 2002, Canterbury - who were on top of the ladder at the time - finished last after having 37 competition points stripped by the NRL over salary cap breaches.