Saracens 'should be automatically relegated'
REACTION: European rugby champions Saracens on Wednesday faced an angry call from rivals Exeter to be automatically relegated for breaching the English Premiership’s £7 million ($9 million) salary cap over several seasons.
Saracens are appealing their 35-point deduction and fine of over £5 million – the sanctions are on hold until a verdict is delivered, likely in 2020 – which has cast a huge pall over Saracens trophy-laden success of the past five years.
The club, home to seven of the England squad that reached the World Cup final including captain Owen Farrell, have won three of the last four European Champions Cups and four of the past five Premiership titles.
Saracens have evidently decided to circle the wagons and angered the organisers of the European Champions Cup by refusing to send anyone to the launch in Cardiff on Wednesday.
Exeter chairman Tony Rowe said he felt especially aggrieved having seen his club lose to Saracens in the Premiership final in the past two seasons.
“They should be automatically relegated,” he told The Times.
“I shall be lobbying to change it. In America, if you are in professional sport and you are found guilty of breaking the salary cap, you are chucked out.
“No messing. There is no room in professional sport for cheats.”
If the 35-point punishment was applied now, Saracens would have minus 26 points.
*Also Read: SARACENS A ‘NO-SHOW’ AT CHAMPIONS CUP LAUNCH
Meanwhile, Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter, who finished runners-up in the last two seasons to Saracens, feels that the Champions should be stripped of two Premiership titles for breaching salary cap regulations.
Speaking at the Champions Cup launch in Cardiff on Tuesday, Baxter admits events have left a bitter taste with him.
“If this is upheld it’s pretty obvious those titles have been won unfairly,”
“If you’re asking me would I like to walk into Sandy Park and see three Premiership trophies there, I would love to.
“In reality do I see that happening? No. There are too many other factors that come into play.”
“I believe the way we played in the final last year would have beaten any other team in the Premiership.
“But the whole truth is if Saracens had been operating with a different group of players last season they may not have got to the final and if a different team had been there they might have outperformed us on the day.
“It would be ridiculous for me to say they were givens. How many results could have been different in the course of a season and the top four could have been created differently,”
Baxter also revealed, although he does not agree with Rowe, he certainly understands where his boss is coming from.
“Tony’s concern, and probably the rest of the Premiership’s concern, is that if that is the first response to what has happened, what they are saying is that they are not abiding by the fundamental basic principles of the salary cap,” Baxter said.
“We’re supposed to be working within the salary cap to create a level of fairness and competition. That’s what we have signed up to and agreed to,”
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‘Dam has been broken’
It is the arrangements of long-time benefactor and chairman Nigel Wray with stars like Farrell, the Vunipola brothers and Maro Itoje that are believed to have condemned the club following a nine-month investigation by the Premiership and subsequently a three-man independent panel led by a distinguished judge.
This took the form of Wray setting up joint-business ventures with the players such as VunProp Ltd, for the Vunipola brothers, Faz Investments Ltd (Farrell) and MN Property Solutions Ltd (Itoje).
However, Wray – who is believed to have invested around £40million of his own fortune since becoming involved in 1995 – told the Daily Mirror in May he saw this as being separate from their salaries.
“The career of a rugby player might end tomorrow,” said Wray.
“Their salary will go down by 90 percent.
“They will lose the ‘family’ they have been with for 15 years.
“We’ve got to work at giving them a better future. And that’s what we do and will continue to do.”
There is also the question mark hanging over the futures of some of their star talent – Itoje and Farrell are on long-term contracts but Wales fullback Liam Williams will be out of contract come the end of the campaign and could be forced to leave if the appeal fails.
Wray and Saracens will have a very narrow remit in terms of their appeal, which has led many to conclude they face an uphill battle
However, former England international Austin Healey warned that the holier-than-thou attitude of Saracens’ rivals could be ill-advised as the spotlight may yet fall on them.
“I imagine there will be a pursuit of other clubs,” Healey wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“The dam has been broken now, so you might as well go after all of them.”
Club insiders have told The Times they fear Wray – who was apparently shocked at the outcome having been told by his legal team the panel had not laid a “glove on them” after their hearing – could well move to sell the club if it is rejected.
“We have to help them build a much better tomorrow. Hopefully, that time will be in their mid-30s but at some stage players will fall off a cliff.
“The review can only be on the basis that there has been an error of law, the decision is irrational or that there has been some procedural unfairness,” the Premiership said in a statement.
Rowe’s demand that Saracens be relegated is the tip of the iceberg as the Daily Telegraph has seen internal documents between other clubs declaring they are ready to cancel their fixtures with the champions if they pursue the case to the courts.
Source: AFP & Rugbypass