The snowball is finally becoming an avalanche and the Saracens salary cap saga is undeniably now the biggest scandal ever to hit English club rugby.
The word is that the players have been informed and the club is set to accept another 35-point penalty, meaning certain relegation from the Premiership at the end of the season. There’s no arguing now, this is bigger than bloodgate.
Saracens accepted a 35-point deduction and £5.3million fine a couple of months ago in mid-November but not much has changed publicly since then and things looks set to get worse.
The 35-point deduction is set out in Premiership Rugby’s regulations for breaches of over £650,000 but those same regulations also state that the sanctions “represent the starting point and the Disciplinary Panel shall have the discretion to increase or decrease the points sanction”.
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WATCH: Jim Hamilton sits down to discuss all the rugby news of the week, with particular focus on the Six Nations and Japanese league.
There was a Premiership Rugby board meeting on Tuesday and it does look like Saracens’ punishment is about to get even more hefty with the latest development having severe and lasting repercussions.
It’s a very difficult situation for the players and this is absolutely not their fault but they reportedly aren’t keen on taking pay cuts and understandably so.
I was involved in a situation at Brive where pay cuts were mentioned and the players all sat in a room and some of them said we should do it but then people go home to their families and it isn’t so straightforward.
You have to look at each individual player on a case by case basis but if they do get relegated, a lot of them will definitely have to leave.
There are some world class players in that squad and, while it would be a wrench for them to leave, they may feel they have to. Whether they can find a new club in England that will pay them close to what they currently earn is another matter.
That could be another knock-on effect if they’re forced to consider moving abroad – what are the implications for England and Eddie Jones then?
In addition to the impact on the players, there will be a significant knock-on effect for the league. If they know they are to be relegated, how will Saracens approach their remaining games this season?
Whatever happens now, this is without doubt a tarnished Premiership season.
We still wait to see how many, if any, of the details behind the punishments will become public but things have moved from rumour to fact in Premiership Rugby’s eyes and they had to act.
We don’t know whether Laura Lambert’s initial report in the Daily Mail was the catalyst or whether there was an ongoing investigation that would’ve reached this end game anyway, and let’s not forget that Premiership Rugby has a new CEO this season in Darren Childs as well, but the important thing is that action is being taken.
The only way to fix the situation and ensure the salary cap is respected moving forwards was to administer severe penalties. You have to remember that the salary cap is there to protect the clubs and ensure financial sustainability as well as a fair league.
It’s the people at the very top of the club who are responsible for this and the noises coming out of Saracens have changed drastically over the past couple of months.
In the immediate aftermath of the news breaking in November, they stated that they were “complying strictly with the salary cap regulations in the current season and will continue to work transparently with Premiership Rugby in this regard”.
If another 35-point deduction is being handed out, people will rightly assume that isn’t the case.
Ed Griffiths returned to the club as CEO acknowledging that changes need to be made and we haven’t seen any publicly yet. It has been widely reported that Liam Williams has left the club but even that hasn’t been confirmed and we’ve seen nothing else.
I can’t remember who’s won which titles except for the ones that I was involved in so I’m not one for insisting that they have to be stripped of their titles but the public just need to see that changes have been made and their squad isn’t as strong as a result.
There will be more to come out in the days and weeks ahead but, make no mistake, this is the biggest scandal we’ve seen in English club rugby and the after-effects will be felt for years to come.
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