Rugby League World Cup boss Michael Brown has resigned amid reports he admitted to bullying a Penrith official in a voicemail message.
Brown also stood down from his role as the NRL’s chief commercial officer after a transcript of the message left for Panthers chief executive Corey Payne was sent to NRL boss Todd Greenberg.
“You can’t threaten people and you can’t bully people,” News Corp Australia quoted Brown as saying.
Payne slammed World Cup organisers after the draw for next year’s tournament revealed NSW would host just two games.
Greenberg said he had to accept the resignation of Brown on Friday.
“It’s been very public, a stoush between (Brown) and a club CEO this week,” Greenberg told EON Sports Radio.
“All of us admit things could have been handled better and more professionally.
“But none of us have that benefit of hindsight so today (Brown) offered his resignation and I accepted it.”
In an open letter to Penrith members, Payne claimed it was staggering a World Cup match was not scheduled for Sydney’s outer western suburbs, the supposed heartland of the game.
“I am extremely disappointed that we have been snubbed by the NRL for ‘commercial reasons’,” he wrote.
“It is a real shame that the NRL cannot see the opportunity out here in the west.
“If they cannot make World Cup games commercially viable in western Sydney, then I must be living on the moon – western Sydney deserves better.”
Brown, a former Hawthorn Football Club boss and Cricket Australia general manager who was appointed to the World Cup role in June last year, said he was stung by Payne’s attack.
“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,” he said.
In an earlier NRL statement, Brown claimed working in two jobs in rugby league had taken its toll.
“The task of taking on two such senior roles – especially away from my home town of Melbourne – has been particularly stressful,” he said in a statement.
NSW will host just two of the World Cup’s 28 games – both against league minnows Lebanon in pool matches against Australia and England at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
Brown said during the tournament draw launch that the NSW government failed to come to the party financially and therefore the state was largely overlooked in the schedule.
Non-traditional rugby league cities to be granted a World Cup match include Darwin which will host a quarter-final.
RLWC chief operating officer Maria Sykes will be interim chief executive.
The NRL’s head of commercial Andrew Abdo will report directly to Greenberg.