Saracens are facing automatic relegation from the Premiership at the end of the season for allegedly breaching the salary cap again.
The defending champions received a 35-point deduction and a £5.3m fine in November, having broken the cap for the past three seasons. However, there is widespread belief they will once more struggle to get under the £7m limit this campaign.
The bosses of the top-flight clubs met at a Premiership Rugby board meeting in London on Tuesday and it was decided that unless Saracens could prove their compliance, they would face the unprecedented step of dropping into the second tier.
Under current regulations, clubs can have all their points removed. Within the salary cap regulations framework, there is an option of reducing up to 35 of the club’s total points at the end of the season, as has already happened to Saracens. However, the regulations state that this framework is merely a ‘starting point’.
According to their official document on the matter: ‘The disciplinary panel shall have the discretion to increase or decrease (to zero if appropriate).’
With Saracens on the verge of breaking salary cap for a fourth successive season, it seems that new Premiership CEO Darren Childs is eager to send a message to clubs who might consider flaunting the cap in future.
‘It is absolutely a possibility that for serious breaches in the future it could include things like relegation and withdrawal of titles and other things that currently the regulations don’t allow us to do,’ Childs said.
‘We have to make sure that we don’t do this again or end up in this position again whether it’s through ambiguity or whether it has been deliberate.’
Saracens have been told to comply with the rules immediately or face relegation at the end of the season. But the defending champions say nothing has been finalised and they are still trying to work through a solution.
The club’s interim chief executive Edward Griffiths said: ‘Discussions are continuing, and nothing has been finalised but our position remains the same.
‘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.’
Although Griffiths has revealed that the club may need to trim their squad to fit under the cap, no players have yet been released.
The contract season has already run for seven months – since the start of July – with all the money paid to players who have featured for the club during that period counting towards the cap.
Furthermore, any money paid as compensation to players for cutting short contracts would also be included in the wage bill.
The scandal has led to the resignation of chairman Nigel Wray earlier this month, but it has now been confirmed that Wray also resigned as director of Saracens and its parent company Premier Team Holdings, according to Companies House records. It means after nearly 25 years as Saracens owner and benefactor, Wray has no direct links to the English and European champions.
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