Wigan have been hit with a two-point deduction for breaching last season's salary cap - a punishment that could cost them their Super League place.
Along with Bradford, Wigan were ruled to have a case to answer after an independent audit of last year's accounts revealed apparent discrepancies.
They pleaded guilty last night to spending between 52 and 55 per cent of their income - a breach which brings an automatic two-point penalty on the League's sliding scale. They also admitted conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game and were fined £50,000.
The Warriors' chairman, Maurice Lindsay, left a hearing at the Rugby League's headquarters in Leeds last night without comment but knowing that the deduction will mean they are reinstated as favourites for relegation.
In a statement later, Lindsay accepted that the club had overspent by £80,000 in trying to cover for the cost of injured players last year. "We will now have to redouble our efforts," he said.
With five games to play, they are now level on points with Wakefield at the foot of the table, although they have the right of appeal against their sentence.
Clubs are allowed to spend 50 per cent of their income on players' wages, up to a maximum of £1.8m. Spending up to 52 per cent brings a fine, but no points deduction, while a club going above 60 per cent stand to lose six points.
Wigan's problem is their overspending last season, despite the departure of their highest-paid player, Andy Farrell, to rugby union. They have had more obvious difficulty this season, signing a series of players, including Stuart Fielden for a world record fee, in an attempt to ward off relegation.
The last time clubs were punished for salary cap breaches was in 2003, when St Helens, Hull and Halifax were all docked two points for exceeding their limits the previous season.
Bradford, who won the Super League Grand Final last season and are fourth this time and probably destined for the play-offs even if they were to lose the maximum six points, are to have their case heard at an unspecified later date.
Four clubs have been dealt with for what are described by the League as minor breaches of the cap. Hull and St Helens have both been fined £5,000, part suspended, while Castleford, who were promoted from National League One last season, and Wigan's main relegation rivals, Wakefield, have been given formal warnings.
Wakefield will find out today whether they will be without two forwards for the battle ahead, as Monty Betham and Ned Catic face a disciplinary hearing after being sent off at Castleford.
Canberra have announced the signing of Salford's Andrew Dunemann and Wigan's Scott Logan for next season.
The League has declared a trading profit of over £500,000 for last year.Reuse content