The current Premiership season has been compromised and all matches involving Saracens should have no points riding on them.
They should be sat at the bottom of the table on zero points with a big ‘R’ next to their name and every game they’ve played thus far and every game they play between now and the end of the season should have no points attached to it.
It’s a measure that probably won’t happen because Northampton and Exeter, who have both beaten Saracens, and London Irish, who earned a losing bonus point against them, would have to hand those points back as well but it’s the only way to ensure a level playing field.
We’re in an almost completely unprecedented situation where a club has been relegated in January because of their own wrongdoing and there are still 14 rounds of the season remaining where they could play the role of kingmakers and that isn’t right.
There is some form of precedent, albeit not in the same situation, if you look at the Welsh rebel season back in 1998/99 when Cardiff RFC and Swansea RFC played fixtures against English Premiership clubs all year but points from those games didn’t count towards the league table.
That came about because the two clubs were pursuing changes to the league structure and refused to play in the WRU-sanctioned Welsh Premier Division so it is very different but the game between Cardiff and Saracens, for example, still attracted over 10,000 fans.
Then there is the example of when Melbourne Storm admitted after the start of the rugby league season in Australia that they had systematically breached the NRL salary cap.
On that occasion, the Storm had all of their points taken off them and were barred from receiving points for the remainder of the season but the other teams were able to earn points against them. That doesn’t go far enough for me.
Saracens should not be able to have any say in whether another team makes it into the top four or top six given that they are not under the salary cap as things stand and don’t seem likely to be by the end of the season either. They are sure to have a big say unless all games involving them don’t have points riding on them.
They could choose to play the kids in one game and all their internationals in another, and I know that is sometimes the case anyway depending on whether your fixture against Saracens falls during the Six Nations or at the beginning or end of the campaign, but this is different.
There is also the question of motivation. The likes of Leicester, Gloucester, Bristol and Worcester have all lost to a fully motivated and hungry Saracens, who also in some of those cases were spurred on further by a false sense of feeling wronged.
When they face Harlequins, Sale, Wasps and Northampton in the coming weeks, Saracens won’t have the same motivation, especially if it’s tight at the end of the game for example. You can say that they’ll still be fighting as hard as they can but there’s an element of human nature to it and it’s unlikely that they’ll be quite as committed deep down.
The fixtures should still go ahead but then the other clubs, as well as Saracens, would be able to rotate their squad and choose how they approach the game if league points aren’t up for grabs.
Of course, there would be negative consequences. Fans may not want to go to those games involving Saracens in as big a numbers, which would have a financial effect on other clubs as well as Saracens, and BT Sport may not be as keen to broadcast them.
That would affect Saracens more than any other club, though, and they have already said they aren’t going to refund any season ticket holders.
It’s not ideal but can you imagine if Saracens stop Bath from getting in the top six when they play them on the final day of the season and they have lost to other teams prior to that with potential question marks over those games?
Some strong decisions have been made in recent days and the publication of Lord Dyson’s report would be another positive step. This could be the final move in levelling the playing field for the other 11 clubs in the league this season.
We’re in an unprecedented situation in the Premiership. This has never happened before and will hopefully never happen again. It’s a shame for the league but Saracens should not be able to influence the table any more this season and I think this is a necessary evil.
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