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The five-time Premiership champions have lodged an appeal and have had their points reduction rescinded until the outcome.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.
Correct outcome should be like what occurred in the NRL, where Melbourne cooked their books in a similar fashion.
2 vacated titles. No Winner that year. Exeter can’t claim the titles, they didn’t win the Finals pic.twitter.com/6NrzhBuXrD
— Lincoln (@LincolnAurisch) November 5, 2019
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.
I don’t condone cheating of any kind but take Sarries possible cheating advantage out of the equation, does that really mean Exeter would have won the titles? No one can know that. The rules cover fines and points deductions, not titles being stripped I guess.
— Anne Dawkins (@AnneDawkins) November 6, 2019
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.
I dont think they can hand the titles to Exeter because how are they more deserving than the team Saracens beat in the semi?
— Ben Keen (@ben_keen86) November 5, 2019
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.
Stripping the titles would be unfair on the fans and players who may have been unaware of the wrongdoing. And regards Exeter, if Saracens weren’t their opponents, if they did cheat, they may not have beaten other teams anyway. It’s a strange one, other clubs beware!!!
— Anne Dawkins (@AnneDawkins) November 5, 2019
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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