Paris - French rugby club Montpellier said they were victims of a 'Stalinist system' after they were fined €470,000 on Monday for exceeding the Top 14 salary cap.
The National Rugby League (NRL) said Montpellier exceeded the ceiling set at €11.3 million by paying players an additional €428,000 during the 2017-18 season when they finished second.
The salaries that attracted suspicion included those of the two South African brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis for that season.
Montpellier said they would appeal.
"I am disappointed," club president Mohed Altrad told AFP.
A year ago the club were cleared by the federation of violating the cap in the 2016-2017 season.
This time the hearing was conducted by a special salary cap arm of the disciplinary committee. It has already imposed suspended fines on Racing92, of €50,000, and Toulon, €40,000, for "failure to communicate documents".
"The word is a little strong, but it's a Stalinist system, there's no longer any contractual freedom, it's the league that sets the players' prices," said the club's lawyer, Antoine Vey.
"Altrad is not in the NRL mould, he has injected money, upset the balance of smaller and less organised clubs," said Vey. "Altrad is being targeted, I think. Other clubs ar