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The National Rugby League has resolved to issue the Bulldogs with a breach notice withdrawing 37 NRL competition points from its 2002 season tally and fining the club $500,000.
The 37 points represent all points awarded on the basis of actual performances to date this season, matches played over the next three weeks will not be affected.
The Bulldogs will also be required to take immediate steps to be within the cap by the start of the 2003 season.
Today?s decision was reached after a meeting with the National Rugby League Board and followed admissions by the club that it deliberately deceived the NRL and rival teams in relation to salary cap breaches totalling more than $1million over the last two seasons.
NRL investigations to date have revealed further breaches beyond that amount and further documentation that the Bulldogs did not make available to the NRL regarding the payment of funds to players.
These documents further establish the calculated nature of the way in which the salary cap rules were broken.
For the purposes of the hearing and to expedite the process, the NRL will confine the breach to matters in relation to which clear evidence exists.
The NRL will perform another audit of the club later this year and warns that any further breaches that are not immediately disclosed to the NRL, and which are detected a later stage will attract significant new penalties.
The NRL will also immediately bring forward breaches in relation to the statutory declarations made to the NRL auditors over the last two seasons by club officials and breaches of the rules in relation to the conduct of officials.
Given the extent of the breaches and the deliberate and elaborate way in which they were engineered the NRL feels there is no alternative but to withdraw the competition points won at the expense of other teams this season and also to impose a significant fine.
The only possible outcome of these breaches has been to be accumulate and retain a playing squad that was outside the boundaries of the rules agreed to by all clubs, including the Bulldogs.
?This is unquestionably a bitter day for Rugby League,? NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop said today.
?Indeed the game has had its heart broken in an unexpected and tragic way.
?There is no question that persons within the Bulldogs have let down their players, their fans and their club desperately.
?The NRL feels deeply for the players and fans of the Bulldogs who are victims in this but it feels just as strongly that the players and the fans of other clubs in the finals should not risk their dreams being shattered because a club was allowed to get away with breaking the rules.
?We do not accept that only one official has been involved in this and we do not believe anyone in the game could accept the prospect of those officials who were involved, and who remain at the club, being a part of any finals success.
?The nature of this breach can only be described as exceptional in both its size and its deliberate and ongoing nature. The punishment must reflect that fact.
?The only positive out of this is the chance the game now has to make a clear statement about the way in which its competitions will be run.
?As tough as this is for followers of the Bulldogs, the fact is the game has committed no offence here, nor have the fans. It is up to the NRL to enforce the rules on behalf of all fans of all clubs.
?We have great faith in Rugby League and in its ability to overcome disappointments such as this.
?All in the game must look to the weeks ahead as a way of reminding ourselves that this is a tremendous competition featuring outstanding athletes.
?That is what we must all put our faith in and that is what we must respect by enforcing the rules to whatever extent is possible.?
The NRL accepts that there will be a number of fans who have purchased finals series tickets in anticipation of the Bulldogs involvement in those games.
Along with Ticketek, the NRL has arranged a refund procedure at Ticketek agencies. A separate release details this issue.
It should be noted that when points are deducted from a team within the competition because of a breach the results of the actual games still stand.
The opposition team does not gain the points from the game, however points for and against remain unchanged and records showing games won and lost remain unchanged.