All three clubs docked points for breaking last year's Super League salary cap are to appeal. Hull, Halifax and St Helens, the champions, have all had two points deducted from this season's competition for going above their limit of £1.8m or 50 per cent of their income last season.
In the only previous punishment of this sort in England, Wakefield were docked four points two seasons ago, later reduced to two on appeal, and the current crop of offenders will also go through that process.
Hardest hit psychologically could be Halifax, who stand to have their only win so far this season chalked off, leaving them without a point. A club statement yesterday claimed the Rugby League had failed to take into account all the relevant income that should have been part of the calculation.
Hull, in third, also claimed the League had got its sums wrong. Their chief executive, David Plummer, said: "The club submitted its salary cap returns in accordance with the RFL's published rules. It is the interpretation of those rules that has given rise to this problem."
St Helens, like Halifax, had a change of administration last season and say that contributed to their situation. "The breach is entirely technical in its nature," their chief executive, Sean McGuire, said. "It is also a problem that developed during the previous management and which has taken some time to put right. This is very bad news for us, in view of where we stand in the table and we will certainly be appealing."
Saints are sixth in Super League and they could slip out of the play-off places for the first time since the system was introduced if they lose to Warrington on Sunday.
The three have not been punished anything like as heavily as the Australian club, Canterbury, who had 37 points deducted last year and went from top to bottom in their competition. Canterbury's sentence reflected a much more flagrant breach and an RFL spokesman said: "The two cases are not comparable."
Ironically, Saints have confirmed the signing of a new player, with the Melbourne and former Wakefield prop, Keith Mason, joining them next week on a three-and-a-half year contract. To make sure they do not slip beyond their salary cap again, Tim Jonkers, Mark Edmondson and John Kirkpatrick will all be allowed to move.
Dean Sampson, who came out of retirement at 35 to help Castleford last weekend, remains in their squad for tonight's game against Huddersfield. Brett Dallas, Sean O'Loughlin and Terry O'Connor all return for Wigan against Leeds.
* London Broncos have sacked Dominic Peters after the winger tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol on Tuesday.Reuse content