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Saracens have been docked 35 points and fined £5.36million after being found guilty of breaching the salary cap, in a bombshell ruling that follows aSportsmailinvestigation.
In a move that sent shockwaves through the rugby world on Tuesday, and prompted a seething response and an appeal from Saracens, the all-conquering north London club received the biggest sanction in the history of the Premiership.
Despite the unprecedented severity of the sanctions, Sarries’ rivals called for harsher punishments, with Exeter even threatening to boycott the forthcoming Premiership fixture between the clubs.
Premiership Rugby and European champions Saracens have been docked 35 points and fined £5.3m after being found guilty of breaching the salary cap
Owen Farrell (pictured) is among the Saracens players who had co-investment arrangements with owner Nigel Wray
In March, Sportsmail published the findings of a four-month investigation into Saracens and their owner Wray (pictured here with the Premiership trophy after their title triumph in 2018)
The Independent Panel – which conducted a hearing over five days in September and October 2019 – was chaired by the Rt. Hon. Lord Dyson, who was joined on the panel by Aidan Robertson QC and Jeremy Summers.
The decision of the Independent Panel is that Saracens Rugby Club failed to disclose payments to players in each of the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. In addition, the Club is found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three seasons. The Panel therefore upheld all of the charges. The sanction that has been imposed on Saracens Rugby Club by the panel is:
A total fine of £5,360,272.31 and a total deduction of 35 league points.
The Salary Cap Regulations stipulate that a points deduction may be imposed in the current season (2019-20) only. The sanction has no bearing on any other domestic or European competition.
Tony Rowe, chairman and chief executive of Exeter Chiefs, said the penalty was too lenient and that Saracens should be thrown out of the Premiership. Asked about the prospect of a boycott of their fixture on December 29, he said: ‘We will consider it.’
Others called for them to be stripped of the titles they won while they were breaching the cap — two Premierships and two European Cups. But retrospective action is not possible in the rules.
Sarries immediately appealed, meaning they will play on Saturday against Gloucester still on nine points rather than bottom on -26 points. The appeal could delay the whole process until the new year, throwing the season into chaos.
The club, who had nine of their players feature for England at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, are contesting the findings of the independent three-person panel led by a former Supreme Court judge, who ruled that they had ‘failed to disclose payments to players in each of the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19’.
‘In addition, the club is found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three seasons,’ the panel ruled, in reference to Premiership Rugby (PRL)’s £7million salary cap.
The breach is understood to relate to co-investment arrangements between the club’s multi-millionaire owner Nigel Wray and star players including England captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy and Mako Vunipola, which were revealed by a Sportsmail exposé in March this year.
Saracens, who informed players of the judgment on Tuesday, said they were ‘shocked and disappointed by these heavy-handed sanctions’. Wray, who is worth an estimated £315m and has been involved with Saracens since 1995, said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision.
Maro Itoje (left) is one of the high-profile players to have a financial arrangement with Wray
Rowe, whose club have battled with Sarries for supremacy over recent seasons, toldSportsmail: ‘I am unhappy about the whole situation. Of course they were going to appeal it, but it means that effectively we will all be playing them this season with one hand tied behind our back.
‘We are a bit upset that we lost a couple of titles to a club that we understand have broken the regulations. You feel really sorry for your own players. All right, they were beaten by a b
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