Reigning champions Wigan Warriors have been deducted two points after being found guilty of breaching Super League’s salary cap.
The breach, which the Rugby Football League says occurred in 2017, was announced just over 24 hours before the Warriors begin the defence of the title they won for the fifth time at Old Trafford in October.
It means that Wigan, now under new head coach Adrian Lam, will kick off the 2019 season at St Helens on Thursday night – live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix – on minus two points.
Wigan have also been fined £5,000 – half of it suspended – after an independent tribunal found them guilty of breaches of the cap in 2017 in relation to six separate payments, totalling £14,700.
The RFL says the club were charged with alleged breaches in late 2018, following the audit of the 2017 salary cap, in relation to a number of payments that were not declared, including the payment of agent fees and a flight allowance.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan says he takes full responsibility for the salary cap breach, and has apologised. However, he has confirmed the club will appeal against the points deduction handed down by the RFL.
He said: “Throughout this process, Wigan has been fully cooperative and transparent with no suggestion of concealment or deception and acceptance formally of the breach.
“This is not an integrity or dishonesty issue, purely an administrative error by a new financial team in an exceptionally busy and disruptive circumstance.
“This breach clearly did not affect the competitive balance of the competition in 2017 yet the immediate deduction of two points does affect the competitive balance of the competition in 2019.
“I take full responsibility for an admitted breach by Wigan and apologise unreservedly for the error and accept a fine is justified. However, in my experience of working in sport and sports governance, a points deduction is the last resort as a sanction for a significant level of breach.
“I am surprised that Wigan has been handed down a points-deduction sanction for such a marginal offence. Wigan will appeal against that aspect of the penalty.”
A statement from Wigan blamed the breach on an administrative error following staff restructuring at the club, along with a large amount of injuries that required salary cap administrative changes and dispensation applications.
Wigan also claim they were not offered an Agreed Decision by the RFL until they were about to enter the tribunal. They say they would have probably accepted the offer – which would have likely led to them avoiding a points deduction – until it was too late.
(c) Sky News 2019: Wigan deducted two Super League points over salary cap breach