Saracens accept 35-point deduction ‘with humility’

By Duncan Bech, PA

Saracens have chosen not to appeal against their 35-point deduction and £5.36million fine for salary cap breaches.

The English and European champions and Premiership Rugby have released a joint statement declaring the verdict of the independent disciplinary panel will stand unchallenged.

In an apparent admission of guilt, Saracens chairman Nigel Wray said: “We have made mistakes and so, with humility, we must accept these penalties.

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray is looking ahead
Saracens chairman Nigel Wray is looking ahead (Mike Egerton/PA)

“As a club, we will now pull together and meet the challenges that lie ahead.

“We confirm our commitment to the salary cap, and the underlying principle of a level playing field, and will continue to work transparently with Premiership Rugby in this regard.”

The maximum possible fine and points deduction were approved for breaches during three seasons up to and including the 2018-19 campaign and follows a nine-month investigation by Premiership Rugby.

The Sport Resolutions panel, chaired by Lord Dyson, upheld all charges after finding that Saracens had failed to disclose payments to players and exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three seasons.

Wray revealed the decision not to appeal was on the grounds that it would be “a costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise”, adding that it was also important to act for the “good of the game”.

The 71-year-old had previously stated that co-investments with players did not constitute salary and should therefore not not count towards the £7million salary cap.

“I recognise that the arrangements between myself and players, made in good faith, which comprise the material element of the charges, should have been brought to the attention of the salary cap manager for consultation prior to entering into them,” he said.

“It is significant that following extensive investigations the independent panel stated that we have ‘not deliberately sought to circumvent the regulations’, albeit we recognise that some of our actions were considered to be ‘reckless’.

“As chairman, I must take full responsibility for the arrangements that led to this outcome. It is important to stress that our excellent coaching staff were not involved in these issues in any way.

“In addition, we can confirm that we are complying strictly with the salary cap regulations in the current season and will continue to work transparently with Premiership Rugby in this regard.

Gloucester fans taunted Saracens earlier this month
Gloucester fans taunted Saracens earlier this month (Simon Galloway/PA)

“We will shortly introduce robust independent governance measures acceptable to all, including the appointment to the Saracens board of a director, who will oversee a new governance regime.

“I will continue as always to support the club financially going forwards to ensure there is no financial instability or uncertainty.

“Perhaps we have done the wrong thing for the right reasons, but we must now draw a line and come together as Saracens to fully support our players, our coaches and our hard-working staff.”

For the first time since the World Cup, Saracens’ entire squad will on Wednesday gather at the club’s Hertfordshire training ground to discuss the fallout to the biggest scandal in English club rugby history.

  • 2018/19 - 11th (33 points)

  • 2017/18 - 11th (32 points)

  • 2016/17 - 11th (32 points)

Even with the 35-point deduction, which comes into immediate effect to leave them 26 points adrift of 11th-placed Leicester, they are unlikely to be relegated on the strength of their points totals for each of the last three seasons.

But they must now demonstrate how they are acting within the salary cap regulations for the current campaign having been in breach since 2016.

Their Champions Cup defence began with a 30-10 mauling at Racing 92 on Sunday and they face the difficult challenge of prioritising their European and domestic challenges.

“This is the right outcome for English club rugby,” Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said.