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Something Rotten in Wigan
Posted by southstander on July 26 2007 - 10:15:07

Something Rotten

There is something rotten in pie land...something seriously unpleasant and festering.

It is no shock to the rugby league public at large, that the RFL yesterday found the biggest cheats in the game guilty of a massive salary cap breach in the 2006 season and docked them four Superleague points. Many had suggested last season that their quest to avoid relegation, at the expense of Castleford Tigers, must have seen them breach the salary cap, and yesterday we were proved right.

Read more here....

The salary cap was introduced into Superleague in the 2005 season for two reasons. Primarily it was to try and make the competition more even, capping the amount that the wealthy clubs could spend. Secondly it was designed such that smaller clubs would not bankrupt themselves by overstretching their budget in paying salaries should their income not be sufficient to support it. All Superleague clubs had a say in the cap and ultimately all signed up to it. Whether you agree to the rules or not, you play within the league that has adopted them, therefore you should abide by them.

But for Wigan it seems that the rules of the league don't apply, because for both years since the introduction they have spent what they wanted, rather than what they were allowed.

Remember the situation in 2006. Wigan were having the season from hell and battling for the whole year to avoid relegation. For the last third of the season they welcomed back Kris Radlinski (from retirement) who was supposedly playing for free, and signed Stuart Fielden from Bradford on a massive salary. Their fortunes turned around and they avoided the drop by just three points, pushing Castleford into the National League.

At the time, many eyebrows were raised but we all put our trust in the RFL who investigated and seemed to condone the Fielden signing. What sneaky Lindsay did was decide to defer payments to some of the well paid players with the promise of increased salaries in 2007. Several players claimed that they were not paid in the last three months of the year, but the RFL found that this was against the spirit of the Salary Cap and determined that they were 222,314 (6%) over the limit.

RFL investigations are apparently ongoing into whether Radlinski did actually get paid, and whether payments for foreign players were made into offshore accounts. This could rattle on for a while.

If I was involved in the Castleford club then I'd be livid. They were relegated, and possibly their existance threatened, by a bunch of serial cheats who have once again put our sport in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Bradford are in the same boat, although fortunately their additional spending last season stopped short of winning them silverware. Once again the sides who play by the rules have suffered and the Rhinos, as the only big four club who have not breached the salary cap, pay for their honesty with a lack of silverware.

As for what to do, I really don't know. I have little confidence in the RFL to enforce the guidelines, and little faith in Wigan being able to keep themselves under the cap this season. I think that the rules may need tightening further, and the punishment for repeat offenders making harsher.

The cheats must not be allowed to prosper like they are at the moment.

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