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Sponsorship warning for 'toxic' Saracens

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Sponsorship expert's stark warning for 'toxic' Saracens

A sponsorship expert has warned Saracens that they face two years of pain as a “toxic” brand after accepting a 35-point deduction and £5.3million fine for breaching the Gallagher Premiership salary cap.

Owner Nigel Wray – who has funded the club for 25 years – has confirmed he will not be walking away from the English and European champions despite having to pay the fine and costs which have yet to be revealed.

However, the damage to Saracens’ reputation caused by the salary cap crisis could seriously hamper attempts to attract a new investor.

Ever since the 2018 departure of joint owner Johann Rupert, a South African billionaire, Wray has been in talks to find a joint investor to share the financial burden at a club that has personally cost him more than £50m during his period in charge.

Now, attracting a new investor has suddenly become much harder thanks to the salary cap controversy.

(Continue reading below…)

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Sponsorship industry expert Nigel Currie, a former joint chairman of the European Sponsorship Association, told RugbyPass: “Saracens have become a toxic brand and only time can get them back to where they want to be.

“It’s similar to Rangers in Scottish football who dropped down after breaking various rules. You just have to rebuild and for clubs wanting instant success, it is pretty bad news.

“There is a danger that Saracens could get relegated from the Premiership and the damage over the next two years will be pretty bad. 

“Holding onto their players and their sponsors during that period is the key thing, but having someone like Nigel Wray there is important because you don’t make money out of Premiership rugby at the moment. 

“It’s tough and now a lot a tougher for Saracens and I don’t know if their club sponsor Allianz have some kind of embarrassment clause in their contract.”

Now 26 points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership, Saracens have started building a new west stand at their Allianz Stadium home thanks to a £22.9 million loan from the London Borough of Barnet after Wray and Rupert jointly funded the east stand which cost £20m to erect. 

 

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Worryingly for Saracens, Allianz, the club’s main sponsor since 2012 who have a deal through to 2021, are seeking assurances from Saracens over their future conduct.

In a statement, the company said: “Allianz is a long-time sponsor but is not a member of any executive or supervisory boards of Saracens. 

“At Allianz we act with transparency and integrity and living up to these high standards is very important to us. We will be holding discussions with the club to confirm this shared understanding and commitment going forward.”

In a bid to bring some stability to the situation, Wray issued a statement outlining the way forward for the club. He also confirmed he will be staying at the helm despite his own decision to launch joint ventures with leading players having led to the current problems.

Wray said: “We will shortly introduce robust independent governance measures acceptable to all, including the appointment to the Saracens board of a director who will oversee a new governance regime. 

“I will continue as always to support the club financially going forwards to ensure there is no financial instability or uncertainty.”

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Sponsorship expert's stark warning for 'toxic' Saracens