'Why was Wigan Warriors' salary cap breach announced on eve of new Super League season?' - opinion
When it comes to shooting itself in the foot, rugby league has plenty of previous.
A day before the launch of the new, exciting, revitalised Super League season which is being branded with the 'new beginnings' tag, the RFL has confirmed Wigan have been docked two points for an historic salary cap breach.
Instead of all the talk being about Saints-Wigan, Coote-Hardaker and all the other subplots to the explosive start of the new campaign, there is only one story for now.
It's why some scheduled TV and radio appearances by leading officials - to promote the St Helens-Wigan derby - have now been cancelled.
Two reporters on national newspapers tell me that big features with players, already written and designed, have been scrapped, too, to make way for this news.
A programme on my laptop tells me our story about Wigan's salary cap breach has easily had more hits and shares then any of the other four Warriors stories posted today, and understandably so. This is major news. And a bloody nose to the club, and Super League, at arguably the worst possible time.
Which has, not surprisingly, led some to have their suspicions about why it was released now.
Super League, remember, has peeled away from the RFL control this year - a bitter break which was spearheaded by Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, who has been fiercely critical of the game's governing body.
The RFL no longer promotes Super League, but it still has responsibility for several issues including, yes, policing the salary cap.
Yesterday, some fans were questioning whether the fact Wigan was snubbed as a World Cup venue was down, even in part, to the fractions of last year.
This announcement today - a day before the derby - will lead some to believe the RFL has stuck the boot into both the Warriors and the new SL regime, headed up by Robert Elstone.
Wigan Warriors won the Super League title in 2018
Wigan Warriors to appeal points deduction for salary cap breach
The RFL says it needed to be made public before the start of the season and, for what it's worth, I'm all for transparency; I wouldn't have wanted this to have been swept under the carpet until an appeal is heard (I'd prefer it if journalists could attend these hearings, like at court, so we know more details).
But the timing still seems curious to me.
If the independent tribunal met last Thursday afternoon and the parties were told on Friday, why wait until now to release it, five days later?
Is it cynical to suggest the RFL didn't release it yesterday because it would have detracted from the widespread attention of the World Cup venues announcement? Maybe. But given the backdrop of everything that has happened, you can see why the question would be asked.
And what about the punishment itself?
Let's be clear, if we're going to have a salary cap, it should be policed and enforced. And this punishment was issued by an independent tribunal - not the RFL - a point which has been lost on some.
I feel like I should repeat that point, because it will be missed by some; clubs breaching the cap should be punished.
And Wigan have admitted breaking the cap in 2017, making £14,700 of payments on agents fees which should have been declared, which they put down to an administrative error.
But I ask, if what the club did was so bad it warranted a points deduction, why have they only been fined £2,500?
Twice before, Super League clubs have been docked two points, and in those instances the breaches were for more than £72,000 - more than four times Wigan's breach now.
In fact, St Helens once broke the cap by the same percentage as Wigan have, weren't deducted any points and were hit with an £18,000 fine.
By that measure, on the surface, this points deduction looks harsh.
Of course, on this issue, you may disagree. You may say Wigan have broken the cap twice before - under different ownership - and deserve the points deduction. You may say all breaches should be policed strictly, and this should be a line in the sand. And that's fine; it'd be a boring world if we all held the same view!
But it doesn't surprise me that Wigan, who have apologised for the breach, are going to appeal the severity of the punishment, and it will be interesting to see if they are successful in having the two points reinstated.
Of course, that appeal won't be heard in the next 24 hours. And so - while Super League will flood its social media channels with promos to try and generate interest in the opening game - it will be played out under a dark cloud, whatever the weather.
A lot of the talk in the pubs and homes won't be about Oliver Gildart facing Mark Percival. It won't be whether Joe Bullock will get a debut, what position Thomas Leuluai will play, how the shot-clock will work and how the two clubs will do this season.
Because Wigan will be on -2 points when the game kicks-off.
And when it is finished, whatever the result, I can all-but guarantee that before Adrian Lam is asked for his thoughts on the quality of the game, the performance of his team, the debut of Zak Hardaker, the derby atmosphere or his return to Super League, he will be asked about another story.
New beginnings? Same old problems.
https://www.wigantoday.net/sport/rugby- ... -1-9566129
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.