The 'salary cap' rumour/leak has once again implicated three clubs that will be no surprise to the rugby league world. Saints, Wigan and Bradford are all thought to be feverishly preparing their defence as to why they paid their players too much in 2006, while clubs who stuck to the rules are left scratching their heads and wondering whether it really was worth behaving themselves.|
If the rumours are to be believed then Saints and Bradford have made small breaches but Whelan's Wigan have ridden roughshod over the rules, for the second year running, and splashed the cash to retain their Sperleague Status. Only fridays announcement will confirm or deny these reports, but there seems to be little denial coming from any of the three clubs who are once again embroiled in the controversy.
For the second year running, all of the silverware is residing in the trophy cabinets of sides who have 'cheated' their way to the top by buying in better players and paying higher salaries than they are allowed. Without punitive penalties (such as the stripping of trophies, or in Wigan's case relegation) then the British rugby watching public will lose all remaining faith in the games administrators.
While I am left feeling bitter that the cheats were allowed to prosper in 2006, I cannot begin to understand the fury that must be being felt down the Road in Castleford who were relegated after finishing three points behind Wigan. At the time, questions were asked about how Wigan could be affording to buy in the players that they were and more than a few eyebrows were raised at the news that Kris Radlinski had come out of retirement to play for the Cherry & Whites for no salary. If Wigan are found to have cheated their way to survival then I think that Castleford have every right to seek recompense and I hope that one of their old boys - Gary Hetherington - will help them in their quest for justice.
Inaction, or leniency on the part of the RFL will be a large nail in the games coffin. These repeat offenders must be hit, and hit hard. In 2002 the Bulldogs were docked 37 points and fined $500,000(AUS) for breaching the cap - repeat offender must expect the same penalty here. In addition to the four, eight and twelve point penalties currently in place there needs to be a multiplier effect for repeat offenders.
We'll await fridays announcement with interest, the credibility of the game depends on it.