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Wigan left seething following points deduction

Wigan Warriors have released a statement of their discontent following a two-point deduction relating to salary cap breaches in 2017.

Speaking of the decision, chairman Ian Lenagan has stated that the 2018 Super League champions will appeal the verdict which he believes not to be a significant level of breach.

The full statement released on the club’s website reads as follows: 

At an RFL Tribunal held on January 24th, 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.

Wigan gained no competitive advantage during this period of breach losing six games in succession at one stage. Wigan finished the season in 6th place and out of the Playoffs, their worst performance since 2006. The breach can be seen to have had no impact on the balance of the Super League competition.

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 Chairman, Ian 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.

Wigan Executive Director, Kris Radlinski commented: “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.”

Past Salary Cap Breaches and Resulting Penalties

In August 2006, Wigan were found to have exceeded the cap by £80,000 in the 2005 season and were deducted 2 points and fined £50,000.

In July 2007, Wigan were found to have exceeded the cap by £222,000 in the 2006 season and were deducted 4 points (no fine mentioned)

In July 2007, Bradford were found to have exceeded the cap by “four percent” (£72,000) in the 2006 season and were deducted 2 points.

In July 2007, St Helens were found to have exceeded the cap by 0.8 percent in the 2006 season and were fined £18,000 (no points deduction).

In May 2016, Salford were found to have exceeded the cap by £95,000 in the 2014 season and were deducted 6 points and fined £5,000.

2017 Injuries

John Bateman – 10 weeks (Shoulder)

Sam Tomkins – 6 weeks out (Ankle)

Joe Burgess – 4 – 6 weeks (Knee)

Michael McIlorum – 4 weeks (Ankle)

Sean O’Loughlin – 4 weeks (Calf)

Jack Wells – 4 weeks (Ankle)

Lewis Tierney – 4 weeks (Knee)

Ryan Sutton – 2 weeks (Eye)

Jake Shorrocks – 2 weeks (Knee)

Liam Farrell – 2 weeks (Calf)

Oliver Gildart – 1 week (Shoulder)

Dominic Manfredi – Season long (Knee)

Ben Flower – Season long (Achilles)

Jake Shorrocks – Season long (Knee)

Jack Higginson – 4 months (Hip)

Tony Clubb – 3 months (Kidney)

Sam Tomkins – 8 weeks (Ankle reaggravation)

Anthony Gelling – 8 to 12 weeks (Knee)

Oliver Gildart – 8 weeks (Back & neck)

John Bateman – 8 weeks (Shoulder)

Macauley Davies – 8 weeks (Ankle)

George Williams – 6 weeks (Knee)

Thomas Leuluai – 5 weeks (Jaw)

Morgan Escare – 2 – 4 weeks (Knee)

Michael McIlorum – 1 week (Ankle)

Ryan Sutton – 1 week (Ankle)

2017 Salary Cap Injury Dispensation Details

Wigan Warriors received dispensations for nine players outside the squads top 25 paid players in 2017, required due to injuries to players in the top 25.

Eight of these players appeared as part of the 17-man squad in a SL game during 2017, players listed below by order of appearances:

Tom Davies – 22

Liam Marshall – 21

Nick Gregson – 5

Josh Ganson – 4

Joe Bretherton – 4

Callum Field – 3

Josh Woods – 2

James Worthington – 1

A total of 62 appearances in the matchday 17 (out of 510 total (i.e. 30 matches x 17 players) – 12% of appearances during the season).

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