Halifax, Hull and Grand Final winners St Helens have been deducted two Tetley's Super League points by the Rugby Football League for breaching the salary cap last season.
The Rugby Football League issued a statement on Thursday, which read: "The RFL's board of directors have decided that the three clubs shall each forfeit two competition points from their 2003 total with immediate effect.
"The three clubs have 14 days in which to lodge an appeal against the decision.
"Within the salary cap regulations for Tetley Super League clubs, the set limit for spending on salaries is no more than 50% of the club's salary cap, relevant income or an upper limit of £1.8m.
"The RFL will not be making any further comment on any of the three clubs' positions."
The news is another blow for Saints, who have lost five of their first 11 matches in this season's competition.
Hull FC fully supports the principle of the salary cap but I believe our appeal will exonerate the club
Hull chief executive
The deduction means they are now eight points behind leading duo Bradford and Leeds, although they remain in sixth place in the table.
The title challenge of third-placed Hull is also affected by the ruling.
They are now four points behind the West Yorkshire duo, although, like Saints, they do not drop down the table.
Halifax's plight is a lot worse.
They remain rooted at the bottom but now have no points to their name, their only win of the season - against the London Broncos - effectively wiped out.
All three clubs have already revealed they intend to appeal.
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said: "We fully understand the RFL's initial finding.
"We consider the breach technical in nature rather than substantive, since it derived from a decision of the club, some years ago, not to take advantage of a salary cap exemption on player's appearance monies, which are paid out of year-end Super League prize monies as opposed to match-by-match payments.
"The total salary payment is no greater, but the method is different."
Hull chief executive David Plummer said: "The club have submitted their salary cap return in accordance with the RFL's published rules.
"It is the interpretation of those rules that has given rise to this problem."
He added: "Hull FC fully supports the principle of the salary cap but I believe our appeal will exonerate the club and show that we have acted in accordance with the parameters published by the governing body.
"I am disappointed, however, that the points deduction has been announced and takes effect before our appeal has been heard."
Halifax claim the RFL have failed to take account of all relevant income and thus the points deduction is unwarranted.
Wakefield became the first team to have points deducted for breaching the salary cap when they were docked four points in 2001, although this was reduced to two on appeal.
The decision almost proved costly for the Wildcats, who only survived relegation on the last day of the season at the expense of Huddersfield.