Saracens to be relegated for salary cap breaches

Saracens will be relegated from the Rugby Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season. Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Premiership champions Saracens have confirmed they will be relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season for breaching salary cap rules after the club announced they would not be appealing against Premiership Rugby's decision.

Saracens were deducted 35 points in this season's league table and fined £5.3 million in November after an independent disciplinary panel said Saracens failed to disclose player payments in each of the last three seasons.

The club, who failed to prove they were in compliance with the league's salary cap this season, will continue to compete in the Premiership for the remainder of the season and will drop into the Championship in 2020-21 with the club electing not to appeal their punishment, stating that they vow to "rebuild confidence and trust" in the club.

"The board of Saracens wishes to unreservedly apologise for the mistakes made in relation to the salary cap regulations," the club said in a statement Sunday.

"Our goal is to rebuild confidence and trust. The first step was to appoint a new independent chairman to lead on governance reform ensuring errors of the past are not replicated in the future. Furthermore, following open and frank discussions with PRL [Premiership Rugby Limited], we have accepted the unprecedented measure of automatic relegation from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-2020 season.

"We understand this decision will be difficult for the Saracens family to accept. The Board must embody the values of the club, learn from its mistakes so the Club can come back stronger. It is in the wider interests of the Premiership and English rugby to take this decisive step, to ensure everybody is able once again to focus on the game of rugby, which we all love.

"We hope that we can now start to move forward, begin to restore confidence and over time, rebuild trust with PRL, its stakeholders and the wider rugby community."

Over the last five years, Saracens have been dominant both domestically and within continental competitions, winning four Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups. However, Saracens will not be permitted to play in next season's Champions Cup, even if they retain its title, as only teams in the Premiership, PRO14 or France's Top 14 division are eligible to compete.

On the punishment handed down to Saracens, Premiership Rugby CEO Darren Childs said in a statement: "Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs.

"At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the Salary Cap Regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season.

"We want to ensure a level playing field for all clubs in the future. As part of this process, we will soon be announcing an open consultation so that everyone involved in the game has the opportunity to contribute to its future.

"The actions that we have taken -- dealing with breaches of the current regulations and reviewing the system for the future - will help us to build a stronger league and uphold the confidence of supporters."

In addition, the Championship does not have a salary cap; however, according to current regulations a top team receiving confirmation of promotion must be compliant with Premiership salary cap regulations. Teams must submit certification of the previous season's salary cap year, and a declaration of the current season's salary cap year within 28 days of the confirmation.

Relegation will mean the future of star names, including England captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers, are in limbo, even with the RFU stating Eddie Jones would be able to call upon Championship players for his England squad should he choose, as first reported by the Guardian.

Saracens CEO Neil Golding said: "As the new Chairman of Saracens I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes, I and the rest of the Board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward.''

In December, Premiership Rugby announced a comprehensive independent review aimed at strengthening its salary cap regulations in wake of the scandal.

The salary cap was introduced in 1999 to ensure the financial viability of clubs in the league and provide a level playing field. In 2017 the figure was capped at £7m and remains the same for the current season.

Saracens sit at the bottom of the Premiership with -7 points after eight matches.