Saracens apologise for 'mistakes' and accept imposed relegation from Gallagher Premiership
PUBLISHED: 11:16 19 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:16 19 January 2020
Saracens have apologised "unreservedly for the mistakes made in relation to the salary cap regulations" after they were given an imposed relegation from the Gallagher Premiership.
The defending champions were told on Saturday they would be relegated at the end of the season for the salary cap breaches which have already cost them 35 points and a £5.36million fine.
The decision came after Saracens were faced with reducing their wage bill by up to £2m to comply with the regulations for this season.
A statement from the club, who are based during the week at Old Albanian Rugby Club's Woollams Playing Fields, carried the title 'Saracens accepts relegation from the Gallagher Premiership' and said: "The board of Saracens wishes to apologise unreservedly for the mistakes made in relation to the salary cap regulations.
"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 Premiership Rugby, 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."
The row and subsequent fallout has led Premiership Rugby to bring in measures to hopefully prevent a repeat.
Chief executive Darren Childs said: "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.
"At the same as enforcing the existing regulations, we want to ensure a level playing field for all clubs in the future, which is why we have asked Lord Myners to carry out an independently-led review of the salary cap."
The path to the decision hasn't sat well in some quarters though with Exeter Chief's chief executive Tony Rowe highly critical of the process.
Speaking to BBC Radio Devon he said: "They had two choices: they could either open up their books so that Premiership Rugby could do a forensic audit of exactly what has gone on, or they could take relegation. So it was their choice not to open up their books.
"Premiership Rugby, all the chairmen, we just want to move on. It was their opportunity to open up everything to the salary cap people, or take relegation.
"They have decided to take relegation."
He added: "We just want to move on. They have cheated. And I'm just a bit upset it has taken so long to do this.
"At the moment they are still picking their team each week largely from the squad they had last year which is still in breach of the salary cap. They have been asked by the rest of the Premiership clubs to reduce that back as well."
What happens now in terms of their players remains to be answered. The club boast a sizeable England contingent with the likes of Harpenden St George's old boys Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje as well as successful home-grown stars like Jack Singleton from Harpenden and St Albans' Nick Isiekwe.
It was said that any settlement of current contracts for departing players will count towards the salary cap.
Whether that still applies now the sanction has been delivered remains to be seen.