Leeds Rhinos: Super League club to pay five-figure fine for salary cap breaches
Leeds Rhinos have been fined £20,000 - half of it suspended for two years - by the Rugby Football League following salary cap breaches.
The eight-times Super League champions were discovered to have failed to declare payments totalling £55,000 to three players during the 2018 season.
The club were found to have exceeded the cap at four separate points by sums ranging from £10,500 to £25,500.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington blamed an "administrative error".
But he accepted the RFL's decision, removing the need for an independent tribunal.
"This was an administrative error on our part for which I take responsibility," said Hetherington. "We are obviously disappointed to lose our 23-year unblemished salary cap compliance record.
"We had no idea we had exceeded the 'live' cap at the time and, with hindsight, we could have averted the breach by loaning out a player to another club."
Hetherington said the mistake arose after two players, Jack Walker and Luke Briscoe, were promoted from part-time to full-time status during the season.
"While their increased monthly payments were included in our salary cap return to the RFL, we didn't lodge their new contracts until the end of the season," the CEO added.
"Matt Parcell also had his contract extended at the start of the season and, while the increased monthly payments were paid, the contract wasn't signed and lodged with the RFL until the end of the season and those combined breaches created the breach we now accept.
"Managing a Super League club salary cap is, and has always been, a very precise operation and we have now revised some of our internal procedures to ensure we don't make the same mistake again."
In a statement, the RFL said: "It was established during a routine RFL audit that Leeds had failed to declare payments to three players.
"Leeds acknowledged these errors and reached an 'agreed decision' with the RFL in accordance with RFL processes."
Rhinos, who won the most recent of their eight titles in 2017, finished ninth in 2018, securing their Super League status for 2019 through the 'Super 8s Qualifiers'. They finished eighth this term.