Champions to Championship? Saracens’ top-flight future on the line
Saracens appear resigned to automatic relegation from the Premiership as they face the impossible task of reducing their wage bill by up to £2million to comply with salary cap regulations for the current season.
It has been reported that players and staff were told on Friday morning the club would accept an additional 35-point deduction for operating above the £7million limit for the 2019-20 campaign.
The double winners were previously fined £5.36million and docked 35 points for being in breach of the salary cap for the last three seasons, but patience has run out among their rivals over their efforts to slash their exiting wage bill.
Chief executives of the Premiership clubs met on Tuesday and an additional 35-point reduction, which would effectively demote them to the Championship, was proposed.
Star-studded Saracens have experienced difficulty in offloading players at this stage of the year to rivals not inclined to help, but chief executive Ed Griffiths is sounding a note of defiance.
“Discussions are continuing and nothing has been finalised but our position remains the same,” Griffiths said in a statement issued to the PA news agency.
“It is clearly in the interests of the league and English rugby that this matter is dealt with as soon as possible and we are prepared to do whatever is reasonably required to draw that line.”
Premiership Rugby (PRL), which manages the league, has yet to comment since reports of Saracens facing automatic relegation broke on Thursday evening as the competition continues to absorb reputational damage exacerbated by its refusal to publish the written verdict to its decision.
Former Saracens boss Brendan Venter has escalated hostilities in the vacuum of PRL’s silence by accusing the club’s rivals of pursuing an agenda of ensuring the all-conquering English and European champions are relegated at any cost.
And Venter also claims on social media that other top-flight clubs are in breach of the cap.
“The thing I am now looking forward to most is when the Daily Mail latches on to the fact that various other clubs have been doing some creative accounting to stay within the cap. Will all the haters stay loyal to their moral compasses. This story far from over yet,” the South African said on Twitter.
“We have taken our shots. Paid our fines. Point deductions. Nobody is trying to get out of anything. What is done is done. All I am saying is that there is way more beneath the surface. Not at Saracens but elsewhere.”
Saracens’ vast England contingent would still be available for international selection if they were playing in the Championship, but it would be an unsatisfactory situation for Eddie Jones.
In a bizarre development, one of Saracens’ main continental rivals has called for them to be punished in Europe for their salary cap breach – even though the rules do not apply to continental action.
French clubs operate under a salary cap that is £3million higher but Jacky Lorenzetti, president of Sunday’s opponents Racing 92, wants the repercussions to extend into the Champions Cup.
“The 11 English clubs have seen Saracens sanctioned, but 19 European clubs have been fighting for 10 years with them to win the European Cup,” Lorenzetti told Midi Olympique.
“It is, therefore, a problem that must be resolved. The marquee player rule allows English clubs to have more room for manoeuvre. In the end, the gap between us is tiny.”
If Saracens are relegated, they will not be able to play in Europe for two seasons.