Knights hospitality deal rocky

For five years, Newcastle promoter Peter Anderson's RockCity Event Marketing was paid to sell corporate boxes and raise third-party sponsorship for the Newcastle Knights.

According to former Knights chief executive Steve Burraston, RockCity's work for the club was extremely valuable, not least because the third-party sponsorships gave it more money to pay Andrew Johns and other top-line players without going over the salary cap.

But Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group has another view.

According to HSG chief executive Troy Palmer, the contract was "a rort" because Mr Burraston had extended the contract a few months after RockCity had employed his son Joel, a former Knights junior player.

All of this dirty laundry might have remained behind closed doors were it not for a court case lodged late last year by Mr Anderson, who said yesterday he was seeking as much as $700,000 in damages and unpaid invoices.

The Knights have lodged a cross claim against RockCity and Mr Burraston, claiming that he acted "unlawfully" and breached his fiduciary duties as a director.

In its defence of the case brought against it by RockCity, the Knights say Mr Burraston used his position to gain an advantage for his son.

Mr Anderson said Joel Burraston was "an outstanding candidate" and he employed him in early 2010 because he was the best person for the job and did his job well.

Mr Burraston said the fact his son worked for RockCity had no influence in his June 2011 decision to extend a contract that Mr Anderson says was worth between $270,000 and $400,000 a year.

Mr Burraston said he knew his son's job was a potential conflict of interest, but he said "everyone" knew about the job and others at the club were involved in the decision to extend the contract.

He said Newcastle was a small place and family members often worked together.

Mr Anderson said he knew the Tinkler camp had "deep pockets", but he was determined to fight the case to obtain a judgment he believed he deserved.

"I was misled during the takeover in that the Knights said they would honour all of the contracts in place at the time," Mr Anderson said.

"We had to extend the contract because it was going to extend mid-season. Steve extended it for 12 months on the proviso we would see how we were going with corporate hospitality in the new western grandstand."

Mr Anderson said he tried to negotiate with HSG before taking the court action, but Mr Palmer said there were no such attempts.

"We look forward to this matter being heard in court where an uncommercial extension was exercised by Mr Burraston without the approval of the previous Knights' board," Mr Palmer said.

"The only winners appear to be RockCity, Peter Anderson and Mr Burraston's son Joel, the company's only permanent Knights employee.

"There is no money outstanding to RockCity. They were paid in full to the end of their contract and as the new owners of the Knights, HSG deemed any extension to the agreement with RockCity to not be beneficial to the club."

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