Super League Chapions Wigan will start the new season on minus two points due to a salary cap infringement.
The Warriors have been dealt this blow just over 24 hours before they face their closest rivals St Helens tomorrow night.
The breach dates back to 2017 when Wigan finished sixth and failed to reach the play-offs.
The RFL’s statement reads: ‘Wigan Warriors have been deducted two points for the 2019 Betfred Super League season and fined £5,000, half of it suspended, after being found guilty of breches of the salary cap in 2017 in relation to six separate payments, totalling £14,700.
‘The decision was made by an independent tribunal on Thursday afternoon, chaired by His Honour Rodney Grant, with two former players as side members
‘Wigan were charged with alleged breaches in late 2018, following the audit of the 2017 salary cap, in relation to a number of payments that were not declared to the RFL.
‘These included the payment of agents fees and a flight allowance, with the Club breaching the finite salary cap when these payments were included.
‘They initially disputed that these payments were relevant to the salary cap, leading to the establishment of the independent tribunal.
‘The club then admitted prior to the tribunal that all but one of the payments hould have been included in its salary cap valuation for the season.
‘There is a right to appeal this decision, as set out within the RFL Opertaional Rules.’
Wigan gained no competitive advantage during this period of breach losing six games in succession at one stage. At no stage did Wigan respond to the charges with a not-guilty response.
Wigan chairman, Ian Lenagan, commented: ‘Throughout this process, Wigan has been fully cooperative and transparent with no suggestion of concealment or deception and acceptance formally of the reach. This is not a integrity of dishonesty issue, purely an administrative error by a new financial team in an exceptionally busy and disruptive circumstance.’