Nigel Wray has left a mixed legacy throughout the rugby world after he announced his departure as Chairman of Saracens with immediate effect.
This comes two months after Saracens were deducted 35-points in the Gallagher Premiership and fined £5.36m for breaching salary cap rules over the past three seasons.
In a statement released by the reigning Premiership champions, Wray said: “As we enter a new year, a new decade, it is time for the Club to make a fresh start. I am not getting any younger and feel this is the right moment for me to stand down as Chairman and just enjoy being a fan of this incredible rugby club. I will always be committed to the wonderful Saracens family.”
The statement also added that a new Chairman will be appointed imminently. Elsewhere, Edwards Griffiths will serve as an interim CEO for twelve months while Mitesh Velani will take up a consultancy role whilst remaining on the Saracens board.
It was also stressed by the long-time Chairman that he is not ending his association with Saracens. He said: “The Wray family will continue to provide the required financial support to the Club, and I will remain actively engaged in the work of the Saracens Sport Foundation and Saracens High School, as part of the club’s ongoing commitment to our community in north London.”
In the wake of an unprecedented few weeks in the history of professional rugby, this announcement has garnered a mixed reaction. The salary cap scandal has certainly tarnished Wray’s and Saracens’ reputation, but many seem to look beyond that and realise the impact that he has had on the game.
Having been associated with Saracens throughout the professional era, Saracens’ success was not instantaneous, and the club’s focus on developing players has been praised. The litany of stars that have come through the Academy is one department where the London side seem to have an edge over their rivals.
However, Wray has been showered with praise for many more things, particularly for his fundamental role in the transition to professional rugby 25 years ago, as well as England’s recent success. Boasting eight players in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final matchday squad against South Africa, as well as the Springboks’ Vincent Koch, it is hard to deny that Saracens have been a driving force in England’s growth over the past ten years.
I will remember him as being the Chairman who built the finest Academy in the country. One that has already produced some of the finest talents this country has seen but is still producing more and more each season….
— Richard Edwards (@Redwards36) January 2, 2020
However, the recent scandal has left a black mark against Wray which many people cannot look beyond. Although Saracens have only been punished for the past three years, they have been labelled as cheats ever since the investigation began in early 2019, and their success throughout this past decade has been marred by the findings.
Chairmen, players and fans have chastised Saracens over the past weeks, with some even calling for them to be stripped of their five Premiership titles. While Wray leaves a legacy to some as being a pivotal architect of the Premiership’s success, some feel this was done dishonestly.
What he has done is creat a culture and an environment for players to thrive. I'd goes to show what can be achieved, problem is he knew what he was doing, call it what you want. What would have been if all owners were able to do the same! Would they have achieved all they have?
— Geraint Bull (@Geraint_Bull) January 2, 2020
Regardless of the differing views after this announcement, the consensus is that Wray’s resignation as Chairman was inevitable given the ordeal over the past months. Many clubs have voiced their indignation in light of this, with Exeter Chiefs being one of the most vocal, and they were able to enact revenge in some way last weekend by beating Saracens at Sandy Park.
This leaves Mark McCall’s side sitting at the bottom of the Premiership table, 18 points behind eleventh place Leicester Tigers, and fighting for their survival in England’s top flight.
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