IT BEGAN with a doodle, continued with a mystery leak, and then escalated into a terse email stand-off yesterday, as two of rugby league's most powerful men – and regular protagonists – Phil Gould and David Gallop went to war again.---------------------------------
HOW THE CYBER FEUD UNFOLDED
The Penrith chief executive and NRL boss were involved in an angry email exchange yesterday, which was copied into a fascinated group of club chief executives and chairmen. It revolved around the publication of doodling on Gould's notepad from the July conference of club officials.
Gould started it at 11.57am, sending Gallop an email that all but accused someone from the NRL of leaking the doodle from the conference involving the chief executives and chairmen, which Gould left early from to travel to Newcastle. Gould demanded Gallop launch an inquiry into how it was leaked to the media, and published just days after a column in The Sun-Herald that was critical of Gallop over the AFL's surge into western Sydney.
"The fact is that someone in that meeting room, on that day, collected this piece of paper and handed it to the media, reporting to the recipient that the scribble on the page was mine," Gould wrote in the email, which was copied to all chairmen and chief executives.
"What motivates a person to do this David and for what purpose? It seems to be of no coincidence that the note paper and the news article suddenly appear two days after my Fairfax newspaper column on Sunday 7th August in which I raised my concerns about the increased AFL activity in Western Sydney; some three weeks after the CEO conference in question. Do you know who did this, David? Have you commenced an investigation into these events?
"Such behaviour I regard as highly suspicious, totally unethical and a serious breach of trust and the integrity of that important meeting room."
Gould said that the notes he took were "neatly folded and placed in my diary", but "the fact that such a serious breach can take place, makes you wonder what could happen if highly sensitive documents from such meetings could also find their way into the hands of the media".
"Mind you," he added, "I am not surprised at such behaviour given the environment that has existed in the NRL under your leadership.
"Any Chairman of any major organisation in the world, where such a breach of the security of the Board room has been perpetrated in this manner, would launch an inquiry into how the breach occurred and the person or persons responsible immediately sacked. I now wait to see if such decisive leadership is forthcoming on this matter." In signing off, Gould said he would recommend that future meetings should be abolished until the independent commission was in place or better security protocols were established.
"David, quite seriously, this behaviour is appalling," Gould wrote.
In Gallop's response, at 2.51pm, the NRL boss denied that he or any member of his staff was the source of the leaking of the note pad – and took great offence to the suggestion.
"I will put aside the personal attack and your misguided suggestion that future meetings not be held," Gallop wrote. "Your concern in relation to the article is entirely valid. Your method in dealing with that concern has been to wait until now to broadcast an emotive email to as many people as possible, before asking a single question."
He added: "As much as it may suit you to turn all of that back on the NRL and to personally attack me, it is an issue for the entire group. It should not be surprising, given the extent to which you have set yourself up as an unceasing critic of the NRL over many years, that there may be clubs and or club representatives who could want to embarrass you. There were many who in fact commented on the length of time you attended the meeting and it is too simplistic on your part to suggest that this is the work of the NRL administration.
"Again you are entirely right to be upset at material being given to the media, but you are entirely wrong to assert that the action was the responsibility of the NRL or that it was in anyway condoned by the NRL."
By late afternoon, there was an apparent ceasefire. Gould responded at 5.10pm, directly to Gallop. He said he had arrived at the conference venue, at Coogee, for two breakfast meetings at 7.30am, but produced a more conciliatory tone. "I understand you taking offence to the original email," he wrote. "I'm not happy this kind of thing could happen to anyone in our game. I handle these things easily, others don't . . . having said that, I will apologise to you for those comments. It's not personal."
Gallop forwarded the apology to the rest of the chief executives and chairmen. And with that, "doodlegate" drew to a close, at least for the evening.