Saracens have started work on a new £23m stand at their Allianz Park stadium but owner Nigel Wray denies the Heineken Cup and Gallagher Premiership double winners need to rebuild their reputation following the on-going claims of salary cap breaches this season.
As Wray reflected on another remarkable season for a club he has funded with his own millions since 1995, he is adamant the latest Premiership examination of the club’s financial practices are only motivated by “jealousy”.
Far from being a pariah club, Wray insists he is in talks with a number of investors who have expressed an interest in ploughing money into the most successful English rugby franchise whose on-field triumphs have yet to register an off-field profit.
The latest Premiership probe instigated in May follows the revelation that Wray has business arrangements with key players including England captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, and Mako and Billy Vunipola, although the Saracens owner insists they are a vital step towards helping players with life after rugby. Premiership Rugby have confirmed that a conclusion of the latest probe is not imminent.
Wray told RugbyPass; “To say that we have been completely unaffected by this would be wrong but jealously is a basic human emotion. Jealously is part of it and if you are losing all the time people leave you alone, but if you are winning things all the time then it’s different. I have been in investment all my life and I do know the difference between investment and salary. With an investment you can lose all of your money with a salary you can’t.
“I haven’t heard back from Premiership Rugby and we have given them lots of information and for me it is about the time when a player retires, his income collapses and he has to look after his family. You have to start that now
“It is still me at the moment (funding Saracens) and there are one or two people in the wings interested in helping Saracens but there isn’t anything imminent. Clearly, I am not getting younger and the sustainability of Saracens is the important thing and it has to be the right person who will buy into the ethos of what we are trying to do. There is the Saracens school, the Foundation and the playing side and there has to be a meeting of minds.
“The preliminary works are starting now on the new stand and I guess the whole project will take a year to 18 months to complete. For next season the plan is to put up a temporary structure for changing rooms etc… on the car park to the side because it has to be away from the construction. The capacity will drop to 8,500 and there will be new seats in front of where the construction is taking place.”
Despite the restrictions the work will impose to create a new 3,000 seat West Stand, Wray insists there are no plans to play major matches at other venues with the only deal in place taking one fixture a season to Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium for the next five years.
Mark McCall, the director of rugby, and the players want to keep as many matches in Europe and the Premiership at Allianz Park and Wray is happy to support this request while the stand is being built. “The guys like home advantage: “added Wray.
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