Wigan Warriors: Super League champions receive two-point deduction

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Wigan beat Warrington in Super League Grand Final

Super League champions Wigan Warriors have been given a two-point deduction for a salary cap breach during 2017.

The penalty, which includes a £5,000 fine, relates to six separate payments totalling £14,700, which were not declared to the Rugby Football League.

The Warriors have said they will appeal against the points deduction as the breach "did not affect the competitive balance of the competition".

As it stands, Wigan will begin their 2019 campaign on minus two points.

They face rivals St Helens in the opening Super League match of the season on Thursday.

"Throughout this process, Wigan have been fully cooperative and transparent with no suggestion of concealment or deception and acceptance formally of the breach," said Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan.

"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.

"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 have been handed down a points deduction sanction for such a marginal offence."

At an independent tribunal, the club admitted the sums, which included a flight allowance and payments to player agents, should have been included in their 2017 cap valuation.

Lenagan said he accepted that a fine was "justified" and that he took "full responsibility" for the breach.

But, in a club statement, Wigan argued they "gained no competitive advantage" and that 2017 represented their "worst performance since 2006".

The Warriors, who beat Warrington Wolves in last year's Grand Final, won the World Club Challenge against Cronulla early in the 2017 season, but ended up finishing sixth and lost to Hull FC in the Challenge Cup final.

Super League clubs were limited to a salary cap of £1.825m in 2017, which rose to £1.9m in 2018 and currently stands at £2m.

Analysis

BBC Sport rugby league correspondent Dave Woods

This is more a technical breach, rather than a case of a club breaking the rules to gain an advantage.

Over-spending by £14,700 on a salary cap of £1.825 million is hardly a breathtaking act of financial manipulation.

But it does break the rules and lines have to be drawn, so Wigan start the year with a two-point deduction.

How costly that deduction will be, only time will tell. It could make a difference to their chances of reaching Old Trafford when the race for the Grand Final comes to a head in September. Who knows at this stage?

The timing is not great, a day before the first match of the new Super League season, with Wigan travelling to old rivals St Helens in that very first fixture.

But this was a ruling that had to be published before the campaign began to ensure full transparency.

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