On the eve of the 2019 Betfred Super League season, reigning champions Wigan Warriors have been hit with a two-point deduction after being found guilty of salary cap breaches during the 2017 campaign.
The punishment means Wigan – who start their season tomorrow against big rivals St Helens – will start bottom of the table on -2 points which, while hardly insurmountable, will be an annoyance to those involved with the club. Nevertheless, the Warriors have outlined their intention to appeal the sanctions, believing that it is a “disproportionate punishment.”
An independent tribunal found the club guilty of breaches in relation to six separate payments which combined amounted to £14,700. The club claim that the breach was down to administrative errors where six small payments of between £2000 and £3000 for agents’ fees were overlooked, leaving the club over the £1.825m cap by 0.8%. The 2017 campaign saw Wigan win the Super League Grand Final but the breaches were found following the salary cap audit of that season during 2018.
“This is not an integrity or dishonesty issue, purely an administrative error by a new financial team in an exceptionally busy and disruptive circumstance,” Ian Lenagan said to the media following the confirmation of the club’s ban. “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,” he continued.
Lenagan, though, outlined his belief that a points sanction is an extreme punishment for the breach, using the example of St Helens’ breach of roughly the same amount in 2006 when they were solely fined £18,000. Wigan outlined that, coupled with a new financial team, the breach coincided with an unprecedented number of injuries which demanded multiple salary cap administration charges and dispensation applications.
While Wigan have appealed the two-point deduction – believing that it unfairly impacts on the 2019 playing squad – they will start on -2 points when they face St Helens on Thursday evening in Super League’s season opener.