Wigan Warriors to appeal points deduction for salary cap breach

Wigan Warriors have confirmed they are going to appeal their two-point deduction for a salary cap breach.

Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 11:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 12:53 pm
Wigan Warriors won the Super League title in 2018

The club were found guilty of have been deducted two points for the 2019 Betfred Super League season and fined £5,000, half of it suspended, after being found guilty of breaches of the salary cap in 2017 in relation to six separate payments, totalling £14,700.

Just 24 hours before their Super League opener at St Helens, Adrian Lam will find himself two points off the pace with the rest of the competition for his first game in charge, depending on the outcome of the appeal.​

Wigan have released a statement citing the breach was due to an administrative error - pointing-out they were less than one per cent over the cap, but chairman Ian Lenagan as accepted 'full responsibility' and apologised 'unreservedly'.

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Lenagan, commented: “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 the club read: "At an RFL Tribunal held on January 24, Wigan Warriors acknowledged a Salary Cap breach of £14,700 in the 2017 season compared with a salary cap of £1,825,000. The Tribunal fined Wigan £5,000 (£2,500 suspended) with a Super League Competition deduction of two-points for the 2018 season.

"The breach was for a 22-week period of a 36-week season and ranged from £12,700 to £14,700 maximum through the period. No breach occurred during the rest of the season.

"The breach represented Wigan being at 100.80% of the salary cap – less than 101%.

"The breach was an administrative error arising from six small invoices of between £2000 and £3000 for Agents’ fees which were overlooked by a new administrative team after Finance Department restructuring in January 2017. The mistakes coincided with an unprecedented sequence of injuries demanding multiple salary cap administration changes and dispensation applications.

"The genuine nature of the disruption is shown by the fact that eight young Academy players played 51 times in the Wigan First Team through this period, including six debutants who played 42 times."

Warriors cited the nature of the breach didn't give them any 'competitive advantage' - having lost six games in a row at one point during the 2017 season - and failed to reach the play-offs.

The statement continued: "When the query arose from the RFL retrospective audit in 2018, Wigan responded by disclosing all accounting records fully and transparently to the RFL investigating team. When formally charged, Wigan’s first formal response to the charges was to admit them as breaches caused by administrative error and disruptive mitigating circumstances.

"At no stage did Wigan respond to the charges with a not-guilty response.

"Wigan were not offered an Agreed Decision by the RFL, as expected in the rules, before the Tribunal was arranged. Had this been offered earlier in the process, as provided for in the RFL Rules & Regulations, Wigan would have had the opportunity to research precedents and would almost certainly have accepted an Agreed Decision involving no points deduction, as offered at the last minute at the door of the Tribunal but with a substantial fine and costs.

"The RFL legal team at the Tribunal represented the breaches as “serious” on a scale from “minor” to “serious” to “exceptional” in requesting a serious penalty from the Tribunal and cited Wigan’s breaches in 2004 (2 points deduction) and 2005 (4 points deduction) as relevant to consider."

Wigan Executive Director, Kris Radlinski said: “I apologise fully to everyone for the breach by Wigan but feel the points deduction is disproportionate to the level of breach. It has a significant effect on players, fans and the competitive balance of the season and is not consistent with the sanctions in other sports.

It is the third time Wigan have been punished for a salary cap breach, but the first under Ian Lenagan's stewardship.

They were docked four points in 2007, and in 2006 also had a two-point deduction for infringements in 2005.