Details of Wigan Warriors' bid to have salary cap case dismissed revealed for first time

Wigan unsuccessfully tried to have the case against them breaking the salary cap thrown out over a central payment to a star player, a report into their appeal hearing has revealed.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 7:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 8:53 pm
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan

Earlier this month the Warriors had two competition points - initially docked on the eve of the new season - reinstated after challenging the punishment for breaking the 2017 cap.

A 16-page report summarising their appeal, and the verdict, has tonight been publishing on the website of Sports Resolutions, the independent body which heard the case.

It reveals that although Wigan had admitted breaking the cap by about £15,000, they lodged an "eleventh hour" argument that they should be cleared.

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They claimed that a portion of one specific player's salary should have been excluded from the 2017 cap as he received a central payment.

That player was one of the few in Super League who received money for "ambassadorial services" from the RFL, as part of a "confidential" scheme introduced to try and keep stars away from the NRL.

If the payment to the player - whose identity is redacted in the report - was excluded from the salary cap amount, then Wigan would not have been in breach of breaking it.

But the appeal tribunal rejected the argument, saying no request had been made to have the payment excluded and had such a request been received, it would have been rejected.

It also noted that argument had "only been advanced at the eleventh hour in response to the RFL charges". Furthermore, on chairman Ian Lenagan's own evidence, the payment made was "likely to have been an accounting exercise that was convenient to the club".

Wigan then argued, successfully, the two point deduction was unfair - and the punishment was suspended on appeal.

The report reveals Wigan were informed they were being investigated on October 25 last year and, after interviews took place, were charged on December 18 with six payments - five to agents and in Frank-Paul Nuuausala's case, flight allowances as well - totaling around £15,000.

The Warriors at first accepted being in breach in regards to two payments, but denied the other charges until "at, or shortly before, the hearing".

No finding of deliberate breach was made, or argued by the RFL, and the appeals tribunal noted the total breach was a small amount; under £15,000, equating to less than one per cent of the salary cap amount.

As well as suspending the two points penalty, Wigan were fined £5,000.

The report noted the Super League clubs are due to meet in May to discuss suggested tariffs for breaching the salary cap.