Rules are in place for a reason and one of the main rules in Rugby League is that all clubs stay within a salary cap in a bid to ensure the top flight remains competitive. In 2017, the Rugby Football League agreed to set the salary cap at £1.825 million, rising to £1.9 million in 2018, £2 million for 2019 and £2.1 million by 2020. But, even this rise is not enough for Wigan - a club that has been found guilty of breaching the salary cap twice before already.

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The breach

The timing of the news could not be worse for Wigan or Super League; just a day before the start of the new season and the reigning champions are in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Wigan has also been fined £5,000 - half of it suspended - after an independent tribunal found them guilty of cap breaches in 2017 in relation to six separate payments, totalling £14,700.

Following the 2017 salary cap audit, Wigan was charged with alleged breaches in late 2018 in relation to a number of payments that were not declared.

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Super League Rugby

Despite this, chairman Ian Lenagan says he takes full responsibility, but outlined his intention to appeal the RFL's decision over what he claimed were "administrative errors" due to the restructuring of his Finance Department in January 2017. With these "errors", Wigan was at 100.80% of the salary cap in 2017.

Lenagan goes on to say that this gave Wigan no advantage whatsoever as the Warriors finished 2017 in sixth position and out of the playoffs - their worst season since 2006.

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Rules are rules

Though less than a per cent over the salary cap, Wigan still broke the rules - rules put in place to ensure a fair playing field. In fact, one could even say the punishment was lenient, considering the fact that Salford was given a six-point deduction in 2016. Some have gone further and argued that the punishment should be even greater too as Wigan have had previous with breaching the cap.

The club was given a two-point deduction in 2006 after infringements in 2005 and a four-point deduction in 2007 - which stemmed from the world-record signing of Bradford prop Stuart Fielden.

Such indiscretions do not exactly do much for the club's honesty, especially when the implication in 2006 meant that Castleford was unjustly relegated.

The Warriors have struggled with the salary cap since its introduction in 2001, with then chairman Maurice Lindsay initially securing an exemption because the club was already locked into a number of long-term deals. And, although the figure recently revealed - of £14,700 - pales into insignificance compared to Wigan's £222,314 overspending in 2007, they have still broken the law set out very clearly by the RFL.

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Setting a precedent

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan has stated that he and the club will appeal the points deduction, but not the fine, claiming that a points deduction is the last resort for a significant level of breach and that this was only a marginal offence. Marginal or not, it is still an offence, and a successful appeal could set a dangerous precedent. Clubs could start claiming that some expenditures were "administrative errors" and that such 'errors' were not done dishonestly.

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Though the decision to broadcast the breach and points deduction a day before the season begins is non-sensical, the RFL must stand to their original decision and uphold their verdict, if only to show the Rugby League world that breaches - no matter how big or small - will be punished.

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