Castleford issue High Court proceedings after Solomona switches to Sale
Castleford have responded to Sale's signing of winger Denny Solomona by issuing High Court proceedings for damages.
The Super League club are also seeking damages against Sale and Solomona's agent Andy Clarke for allegedly inducing a breach of contract.
The widely-anticipated move follows the Sharks' confirmation earlier in the day that the 23-year-old Solomona had signed a three-year contract with them, despite still having two years left on his Tigers deal.
Castleford chief executive Steve Gill said: "The proceedings have been issued as a last resort, having failed over the last couple of weeks to try and resolve matters without the formality of court proceedings.
"We have confidence that the legal system will bring out all of the facts and the truth. We are fighting this not just for Castleford Tigers but also for the integrity of all sports, including of course rugby union clubs.
"Our belief is that all contracts are sacrosanct in professional & amateur sports."
Castleford have appointed leading London barrister Nick Randall QC - whose other clients include England captain Wayne Rooney - and Leeds-based sports lawyer Richard Cramer to fight their case, which is expected to be heard in Leeds.
The Super League club have the backing of the Rugby Football League, whose chief executive Nigel Wood has expressed his concern to both the RFU and Premier Rugby and welcomed the Tigers' tough stance.
Wood said: "As we have previously stated, the RFL believes that it is a fundamental point of principle for all sports that both players and clubs adhere to the terms of signed contracts between them.
"It is therefore not surprising that when a club believes the terms of a contract have been broken, they may issue legal proceedings to protect their position."
The RFL is also investigating Clarke, who is an officially-accredited agent.
Solomona, a former Melbourne Storm player who joined London Broncos in 2014, shot to prominence in 2016 with 42 tries that enabled him to break both the Castleford club and Super League records and secured him a place in the Dream Team and a spot on the Man of Steel shortlist.
Castleford rejected three offers for the player towards the end of the season, with Gloucester known to be one of the other rugby union clubs to express a keen interest, but opted to take legal advice when he failed to report for pre-season training in November.
Gill added: "If the shoe was on the other foot and Solomona had suffered a career-ending injury in the last match of the season there would have been an absolute obligation on us to honour our contractual obligations.
"We look after our players and fully expect our players to respect their contractual commitments. Sadly and with regret, Solomona has done the polar opposite and effectively and unilaterally walked away from the remaining two years on his contract.
"In August this year we made it very clear to Solomona and to Sale Sharks that there was an unbreakable contract in place until the end of season 2018 with no basis whatsoever for either ourselves or Solomona to depart from each other's mutual obligations.
"The idea of losing the player was not welcomed by us and we have repeatedly told Sale Sharks that it would be impermissible for them to talk to Solomona let alone sign him. Clear unequivocal warnings have clearly been disregarded."
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond revealed at a press conference earlier in the day that Auckland-born Solomona would make his debut for the Sharks in Sunday's Champions Cup match against holders Saracens at the AJ Bell Stadium after training with them for just over a week.
The player, who is seen by Diamond as an outside centre or winger in the 15-man code, has also been registered to play in the Premiership and has received the necessary clearance from the rugby union authorities.
Diamond dismissed talk of under-hand dealings and says he is confident an agreement will be thrashed out between the clubs.
"We've never wanted to go down the route of getting into any legal battles," Diamond said. "We just wanted the deal done and I'm sure the powers that be are getting on with that as we speak.
"I don't think we've done anything wrong at all to be perfectly honest. Players have agents and agents put players up on the market place. There were two other rugby union clubs that I know of who were in the market to sign Denny Solomona.
"We've just got to bite our lip and get on with it and be candid. We've got nothing to hide."
The Sale boss says the player became available in the late summer after announcing his intention to play rugby union and apparently resigning from rugby league.
"I do understand Castleford's perspective," Diamond said. "He's one of their star players.
"What has happened to Cas has happened to me, I had three players leave me in the summer, that's the way it is.
"Denny's attention was brought to me not by an agent but by fellow players, fellow Samoan lads who play here that he is friendly with.
"His desire was to get playing rugby union. He said he wanted to play the game he grew up with. If it wasn't a club in England, he was going to go back to Auckland in the super franchises where he came from.
"In all honesty, the situation has been blown out of proportion. These things happen in sport every week where players move around.
"There are two sides to all stories. I can say from day one that Sale have acted in the best interests of Sale and have done everything legitimately by the book. I think that will come out in the wash."