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Title call courts more controversy


Why handing Saracens' last two titles to Exeter would only create more controversy

In the wake of Saracens’ fine and points deduction for breaching salary cap regulations, chairmen, coaches and players of other teams have demanded that the reigning Gallagher Premiership champions be stripped of the two titles they won in the three seasons they were found to be in breach for.  

The London club were fined £5.36million and deducted 35 points on Tuesday for failing to disclose player payments over the past three years after an investigation was launched following investments between chairman Nigel Wray and his players. 

The five-time Premiership champions have lodged an appeal and have had their points reduction rescinded until the outcome. 

But since this salary cap findings emerged, social media has been awash with fans who agree with the sentiments of Exeter boss Rob Baxter that Saracens’ 2018 and 2019 titles – won in finals against the Chiefs – should be voided. 

Many people have cited rugby league’s Melbourne Storm were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 NRL titles for salary cap breaches. 

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There has equally been a campaign not only for Saracens to lose their titles but for Exeter to be given them as they had been runners-up the past two seasons. This has proven to be slightly more divisive. 

While there are arguments that sports like athletics see silver medalists awarded gold if the winner is disqualified, this would prove to be too complex in rugby. 

The main reason why awarding Exeter the titles is not a popular option is that there is no guarantee they would have won in Saracens’ absence. Of course, they reached the final but giving them the title would be unfair on the semi-finalists that lost to Saracens. 

Last season, Saracens overcame Gloucester in the semi-final at Allianz Park. Had they not had the alleged advantage over the Cherry and Whites due to the salary cap breaches, Johan Ackermann’s side may have won, meaning they would have played Exeter in the final. 

Gloucester and Exeter met four times last season across the Premiership and Champions Cup, with each side winning two games, one home and one away. It would be absurd, and frankly unfair then to suggest Exeter would have certainly won the final against Gloucester. 

While the punishment handed to the Melbourne Storm is the example that many want Premiership Rugby to follow, it must be noted that the NRL titles were not awarded to another team. They were simply left void. 

Giving titles to other teams is dangerous territory as there are simply too many variables.  

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Why handing Saracens' last two titles to Exeter would only create more controversy
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