Explosive voicemail forced Rugby League World Cup boss Michael Brown to quit

Rugby League World Cup boss Michael Brown was forced to quit after he admitted to bullying a Penrith Panthers executive. Photo / Thinkstock.
Rugby League World Cup boss Michael Brown was forced to quit after he admitted to bullying a Penrith Panthers executive. Photo / Thinkstock.

Rugby League World Cup boss Michael Brown was forced to quit after he admitted to bullying a Penrith Panthers executive in a furious voicemail phone message.

Brown, who is also the NRL's Chief Commercial Officer, stood down after a transcript of his recorded spray at Panthers chief executive Corey Payne was sent to NRL boss Todd Greenberg.

The $500,000-a-year executive was responding to Payne's criticism that the Panthers had not been awarded a World Cup game next year.

There were suggestions his bullying included physical threats.

"You can't threaten people and you can't bully people," Brown told The Saturday Telegraph.

"I was frustrated and I was angry because I was so passionate about the event.

"I left a voice message that I'm really disappointed and pissed off and I'm going to go for you and I was going to tell the world about the lies.

"I didn't respond like I should have and I've got to take responsibility for my action. It's not the normal way I behave.

"I stepped across the line. I've loved the game and this has made me cry but I've made the right decision."

Brown stands by his criticism of the Panthers boss but not in his choice of words or the tone of the message.

"We'd had a great day with announcements in Brisbane and Townsville then Penrith put out this pack of lies about the venue choices," he said.

"We didn't go to Penrith because they were asking us for in excess of $500,000 to play there.

"Allianz Stadium charged us $100,000. It was a simple decision."

Panthers CEO Payne was in Brisbane on Friday hosting a function for the Panthers' match against the Broncos and did not want to be drawn into the controversy.

"I've got nothing to add," he said. "I just want the best for rugby league and western Sydney.

"I'm a rugby league person through and through, and I'm a western Sydney kid. There's nothing more to say."

One Penrith insider said Greenberg would have had no other option but to sack Brown once he read the transcript of the voice message.

The Saturday Telegraph understands not only was Brown hostile, but also made physical threats towards Payne.

Speaking on EON Sport on Friday night, Greenberg said it was well known there was a "very public stoush" between Brown and Payne.

"I think all of us would admit things could have been handled better and more professionally, but none of us have that benefit of hindsight," Greenberg said.

"Today he (Brown) offered me his resignation and I accepted it.

"I've spoken to Corey this week.

"This is another reminder for all of us, and I say this regularly, the game is extremely tough, and I'm talking about off the field.

"It's a tough game. The game has a set of values, but ultimately all of us have to value those values and live by them.

"It's a difficult game sometimes, it's emotional, and you deal with people who have emotional connections and insight into the game. It's a reminder to all of us in senior positions and senior roles there's a big responsibility that goes with it."

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