Eels boss denies sponsors fleeing NRL

Chris Sandow of the Eels makes a break during the NRL trial match against the Wests Tigers. Photo / Getty Images
Chris Sandow of the Eels makes a break during the NRL trial match against the Wests Tigers. Photo / Getty Images

Parramatta chief executive Ken Edwards has downplayed fears the doping scandal hovering over the NRL will frighten off sponsors as the Eels announced the loss of their longtime backer.

Edwards on Tuesday revealed major sponsor Pirtek would end its nine-year association with the Eels at the end of the season - a rumoured $AU1.5million a year asking price proving too high to continue the partnership.

Parramatta's decision to part ways with Pirtek came on the same day Cronulla revealed a $AU1million-a year naming rights sponsor for their home ground had walked away in light of the anti-doping saga.

The Sharks were one of six NRL clubs named in the Australian Crime Commission's report into the suspected use of banned substances by clubs.

There have been murmurings by some club officials about the possibility of legal action over the financial hit some franchises have taken.

But Edwards denied the drugs cloud was driving away possible investors.

"I have a different view to some others. I honestly don't think so," Edwards said on Tuesday.

"The boardrooms that I have been in over the past few weeks would indicate to me that there is a high level of confidence in corporate Australia that the NRL and the other sports will deal with this appropriately.

"That they will take a strong position that there is a zero tolerance position for drugs in our sport."

Edwards said Parramatta was not one of the NRL clubs reportedly considering taking legal action against the ACC.

"We have confidence in the NRL handling this in the best interests of the game," Edwards said.

"There can only be one outcome here and that is we all do everything that we can to eradicate drugs from our game."

Edwards said a mutual decision to end the agreement with Pirtek was made on February 1 - before the ACC report came out - and that it had been an amicable end to the relationship.

He said there was no truth to reports that Parramatta had deliberately priced itself out of a contract renewal with Pirtek because of an allegedly strained relationship between the company's chief executive Glenn Duncan and the club.

Edwards was confident and comfortable the club would find a new major sponsor for 2014 that could meet their reported figure of $1.5 million.

He also unveiled plans to make Parramatta the No.1 NRL club within five years.

"We want to grow our membership from 12,000 at the end of last season to 40,000," Edwards said.

"We want to develop a high performance and community centre that is going to cost in the order of $AU40 or 50 million."

- AAP

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