SUPER LEAGUE champions Wigan Warriors have seen their two-point deduction for breaching the salary cap overturned.
On the eve of this season, an independent tribunal originally deducted the points and fined Wigan £5,000, half of it suspended, after the club was found guilty of breaches of the salary cap in 2017.
However, with the breaches totalling just £14,700, Warriors, while accepting their guilt, appealed the verdict.
Following a re-hearing, a fresh Sport Resolutions panel has imposed a two-point deduction but, crucially, suspended it for a period of 12 months until March 2020.
That deduction will automatically be activated if Wigan commit a further breach of the Finite Salary Cap in that period.
In addition, the panel has ordered Wigan to pay a fine of £5,000 immediately and confirmed that costs of £2,000 for the original hearing on January 24 must be paid.
The panel have also ruled that their appeal deposit should be retained by the RFL.
The RFL and Wigan had already agreed to split the cost of the Sport Resolutions hearing.
It is a welcome boost for Adrian Lam’s struggling side who, prior to today’s judgement, were joint-bottom with Huddersfield Giants, who they host on Friday.
Wigan have lost three of their opening four league games, including going down at newly-promoted London Broncos on Sunday, and also fell in the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters.
The re-instatement of the points sees Wigan move up to tenth with Leeds Rhinos dropping to 11th.
In a statement, Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan said: "We are now able to draw a line under this issue and are pleased that the Sports Resolutions independent panel have reached what we have always believed to be the correct decision.
"Throughout this process we have acknowledged the administrative errors that resulted in this technical breach and I’d like to say again that we apologise unreservedly for the errors and accept a fine of this level is justified.
"At no point during this investigation has Wigan’s integrity been questioned. Our main argument has been that a points-deduction punishment was disproportionate to the marginal nature of the offence committed and we are happy that the independent panel shares this view with today’s decision.
"We have worked co-operatively with the Rugby Football League (RFL) and the Sports Resolution panel.
"’d also like to thank our fellow Betfred Super League clubs who have been largely supportive of our stance. Hopefully the findings of this case can act as a catalyst for change on some of the operating procedures regarding salary cap management which are clearly necessary.
"Wigan now will draw a line under this affair and look forward to getting back to the important matter of gaining points on the field for the remainder of the 2019 Betfred Super League season.”
An RFL statement read: “It is good to have this matter resolved, after this second independent hearing following the initial independent tribunal in January.
“The RFL will continue to police the salary cap in agreement with the Super League clubs.”