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Friday, 28 November 2014

Raiders chairman slams RFL punishment

DES Johnston has labelled the tribunal which relegated Barrow Raiders and banned him from rugby league for eight years as a ‘witch-hunt’ and a ‘stitch up’.

The 52-year-old businessman was thrown out of the game by the Rugby Football League on Thursday night.

The RFL found the Barrow chairman and the club guilty of making illegal player payments and breaching the salary cap between 2007 and 2011.

They imposed a 29-point deduction on Raiders, sending them down into Championship One.

But Mr Johnston, who had been on the board at Craven Park since 2006, said the punishment was totally out of proportion and attacked those who made the judgement.

He said: “The people at the RFL who have carried out this investigation have embarrassed themselves beyond belief.

“We are well aware that I have been hung out to dry and there has been a witch-hunt going on for the last few years. There have gone so far over the top.

“When they said that Barrow would get a 29-point deduction, I thought my ears had gone.

“It is an absolute stitch-up.”

The tribunal heard Barrow had breached the salary cap by a total of £134,000 over the five years the RFL had investigated.

The biggest breach was £60,000 in 2009, with all the money accounted for by expenses payments made to players which were not included in their wages.

Mr Johnston – who is still awaiting written confirmation of the judgement from the RFL, and who will only be able to appeal after receiving said documents – said if those payments has been included the salaries would still have been well under cap.

Asked if he accepted things had been done wrongly and rules had been broken at the club, he said: “No, I don’t accept that.

“I have said how we have challenged the RFL time and time again over how clubs like Gateshead and Crusaders receive special dispensation and we don’t.

“If the RFL had given us some leeway, this would never have been a situation in the first place.

“It doesn’t matter if you have me or any other director in charge, they do not recognise our geographical position.

“If these expenses had been in the wages, then we would have still been under the salary cap. There is just a difference between salary and bona-fide expenses like for travelling and petrol.”

Asked, therefore, if he could have paid the expenses as part of the salaries and avoided the problems, Johnston added: “Well, you could have done as part of the salary.

“The main cost of all this was travelling and accommodation – there is an expense there.

“We have broken the rules, yet the rules are a farce and they not on a level playing field for everyone.”

The RFL confirmed last night that the club would not be fined, nor would the Championship Grand Final win of 2009 be taken away from them.

Mr Johnston said he would not add to any financial concerns by asking a new board to repay his substantial loans, hoping a reasonable agreement could be reached.

Asked if he could hold his head up high to any Barrow fans who came up to him and asked ‘what kind of mess have you left our club in Des’, he added: “I have had massive support and I have been inundated with phone, text messages and emails all day today, regarding the decision, which can only be described as absolutely outrageous.

“I know exactly the financial situation the club was in when I came on board and the mess they were in. I wouldn’t change a thing and I can hold my head up high.

“There is no reason for anybody else not to hold their head up high either.”

So would the former chairman change anything given the chance?

Johnston had a simple, one-word answer: “No.”

Have your say

Hey guys, let's have no more rubbish on here. Rules are rules and Des & Co broke them. Now it's us fans that have to pay the real price of their antics. Read what Dicky, Neil, Jonathan, and others are saying on here.

For those that are defending the actions and believe the RFL is wrong, .... Get your head out of the sand. This is the real world where punishments happen if you get caught.

Utterly disgusting leadership from one or more individuals who should know better. Pity it wasn't a life ban.

Posted by George on 17 October 2011 at 12:58

Who does Des Johnson think should take the blame for his wrong doings.
Not only has he discredited Barrow Rugby,
but all the Town supporters who have followed Barrow for generations.
The loss of a chance to go into the super
league,looks light years away,if ever.
Sad day for Barrow RFC.

Posted by Dicky on 10 October 2011 at 18:14

View all 12 comments on this article

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