Saracens have been assured that their imminent relegation to the Championship for repeated salary cap breaches will not threaten the stalled defence of their Champions Cup title. The London club were automatically relegated to the second-tier league in England last January, but that 2020/21 status won’t affect their participation in the unfinished 2019/20 Champions Cup campaign.

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Saracens reached the quarter-finals with a dramatic Allianz Park pool win over Racing, but their last-eight match in Dublin versus Leinster has yet to take place as its original April 4 date was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and has yet two be rescheduled. 

EPCR’s two main European tournaments – the Champions and Challenge Cup – only cater for top-flight qualifiers from the Gallagher Premiership, the Guinness PRO14 and the Top 14. However, that regulation won’t prevent the soon-to-be-demoted Saracens from finishing out the currently stalled European campaign whenever it resumes. 

Speaking to The Mirror, EPCR chairman Simon Halliday said: “Saracens have qualified for the quarter-finals and I’ll defend their right to complete the Champions Cup campaign no matter what. As long as we can complete the tournament they should be allowed to participate for as long as they keep on winning.

“In the very short term, we are all screaming with pain due to the financial impact of no rugby and no crowds. It’s really horrendous what it’s doing to the game and its revenues,” added the European chairman, reflecting on the rugby stoppage that had generated major financial pressures at clubs.

“But there is a belief that we can get our players fit enough and safe enough to play three big weekends of European rugby through September and October.”

Earlier in the pandemic stoppage, Halliday had been vocal that EPCR were not being invited into talks about rugby’s restart, but he has revealed his organisation are now involved. “We’re all talking and I’m really pleased,” he said. “Hopefully by the end of June there will be consensus building on how best to deal with the very short term – and perhaps the years ahead as well.”

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