Saracens charged for breaching Salary Cap

Saracens

Huge Gallagher Premiership news today, with Saracens fined £5m and docked 35 league points for breaching the salary cap.

Here is the statement from Premiership Rugby:

PREMIERSHIP RUGBY can confirm that an independent disciplinary panel has reached a decision in respect of charges brought against Saracens Rugby Club for alleged breaches of the Premiership Rugby Salary Cap.

The charges, which relate to the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, were brought in June 2019 following a nine-month investigation by Premiership Rugby. In accordance with the Salary Cap Regulations, such charges are referred to the independent dispute service, Sport Resolutions, which appoints an Independent Panel to determine whether the alleged breaches have occurred and to decide any sanction.

The Independent Panel -which conducted a hearing over five days in September and October 2019 – was chaired by the Rt. Hon. Lord Dyson, who was joined on the panel by Aidan Robertson QC and Jeremy Summers. Lord Dyson was Master of the Rolls (President of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and Head of Civil Justice) for four years until he retired in October 2016. He was a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from April 2010 until October 2012.

The decision of the Independent Panel is that Saracens Rugby Club failed to disclose payments to players in each of the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. In addition, the Club is found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three seasons. The Panel therefore upheld all of the charges.

The sanction that has been imposed on Saracens Rugby Club by the panel is:

– a total fine of £5,360,272.31
– and a total deduction of 35 league points.

The Salary Cap Regulations stipulate that a points deduction may be imposed in the current season (2019-20) only. The sanction has no bearing on any other domestic or European competition.

The Independent Panel rejected the Club’s challenge on competition law grounds to the validity of the Regulations. In setting out its conclusions, the Panel noted that the salary cap operates in a pro-competitive manner by promoting the objectives of ensuring the financial viability of Clubs, controlling inflationary pressures, providing a level playing field, ensuring a competitive league and enabling Clubs to compete in European competitions.

Under the Regulations, Saracens Rugby Club has the ability to seek a review of the decision by an arbitration body. The review can only be on the basis that there has been an error of law, the decision is irrational or that there has been some procedural unfairness. In the event that Saracens Rugby Club seeks a review, the sanctions will be suspended pending the outcome of that review.

A Premiership Rugby spokesperson said: “The Salary Cap is an important mechanism to ensure a level playing field for Premiership Clubs and maintain a competitive, growing and financially sustainable league. Today’s decision by the Independent Panel upholds both the principle of the Salary Cap and the charges brought following an extensive investigation by Premiership Rugby. We are pleased that this process has reached a conclusion and we look forward to another exciting season of Premiership Rugby.”

The Premiership Rugby Salary Cap Regulations were first introduced in 1999 and can be viewed at www.premiershiprugby.com/salarycap

There’s a reasonable chance that Saracens will be relegated as a result of the points deduction, although it may be extra incentive for Premiership Rugby to end relegation.

What do you think of this news?

121 thoughts on “Saracens charged for breaching Salary Cap

  1. Can’t see them being relegated – they’d be able to claw their way back into the top 6 even with the deduction.
    However the bigger impact will be how this decimates their squad because surely they’ll have to offload players to fit into the cap this season or risk further points deductions and fines. Or players accept massive pay cuts.
    Also, I genuinely think it calls into question their trophies during the time this has been going on. In principle I don’t begrudge them the wins but if they are guilty of breaching the cap to sign the best players it is a form of cheating so they can’t claim to have won those trophies on an even playing field.
    Massive news.

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  2. Proven to be cheating for 3 season 2 of which they won the playoff against Exeter.
    Makes me feel bad for Exeter they should be given the £5m as compensation

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      1. Not sure it’s as simple as that. Baxter put it nicely earlier by saying “the reality is there’s no way for me to say, or any other person to say, how any of those seasons would have gone”. There are far too many variables.

  3. They need about 50-55 more points from 19 games to be safe from relegation so while the chances of them being relegated seem slim, in order to get back within the cap they are going to have to cut salaries which will lead to demotivation and loss of key personnel.
    Given it is a world cup year they will also be getting shattered/heartbroken players back who will need to be carefully managed and throw this news on top and it is bound to impact performances.
    The impact of this could be felt over a few seasons

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  4. Interesting comments from Wray:

    “It’s been acknowledged by the panel that we never deliberately sought to mislead anyone or breach the cap.”

    And from the club:

    “The club apologised for “administrative errors relating to the non-disclosure of some transactions” to Premiership Rugby Limited, but added it will “continue to vigorously defend this position especially as PRL precedent already exists whereby co-investments have not been deemed part of salary in the regulations”.

    It’s really strange that they haven’t been found to be deliberately misleading the Prem. If the methods they are using to pay players has already been deemed legal then it seems like Saracens could be successful in their appeal.

    I think we all knew this was coming, but it’ll be interesting to see what punishment Saracens receives after appeal.

    1. “It’s really strange that they haven’t been found to be deliberately misleading the Prem.”
      Yes they have been found guilty of failing to disclose payments to players in the three seasons where they have breached the ceiling for payments

      “If the methods they are using to pay players has already been deemed legal”
      No they haven’t. Wray has said investment is not salary but setting up companies called
      VunProp Ltd (Mako and Billy Vunipola), Faz Investments Ltd (Owen Farrell), Wiggy9 Ltd (Richard Wigglesworth) and MN Property Solutions Ltd (Maro Itoje) and then dumping a load of cash in them is not investment it is backhanded payment

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      1. But if this method of remuneration is backed, supposedly, by legal and professional advice then will it be easier to argue against the ruling?

        1. Well the disciplinary panel have spent 9 months investigating and come to the conclusion that it is not a legit investment/company and a bunch of QC’s have reviewed the case and upheld the decision so the onus is on Sarries to prove that the “investments” are legit investment in a company and not just funnelling money through a dummy corporation.

        2. It stinks whatever the outcome. Call me old fashioned and naive but knowing that some of our World cup heroes and best players have been involved in this just eradicates the last seven weeks for me.

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    1. He would have earned more at other clubs than he will at Saracens. English rugby is the loser. Saracens is/ was by far and away the best organised and player friendly club in Britain if not in World Rugby. It developed the players and made them European Champions. I am amazed that Exeter another well organised and player friendly club spend as much as Worcester who use the full salary cap quota we are told but to not great effect. Rugby fans look foreword to Exeter and the all the other English Clubs who only spend up to the salary cap winning the European Cup and shield this and many more times over the coming years and any one of them providing, home grown, over half of the England team next year. Saracens provided the World Cup with 16 players of quality because it brings on its players wherever they come from and enjoys their success. The SouthAfrican prop returning to Saracens is. It last years buy and he will be honoured by that club not because he will now play for them but because the club and supporters are very very proud of him. That’s rugby

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  5. When Quins were found to have accidentally breached the cap by £12k they were fined 50p on the pound and given a £6k fine.
    If a similar approach was taken here we are talking about £10m over the £7m cap split across three seasons that is nearly 50% over the cap per season which is increadible

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    1. Once you’re more than £200k over cap the fine is £3 per £1 over. That would put the £600k per year over. Overall (allowing for Marque players etc) the cap is about £10m. So 6% over

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        1. If they have substantial earnings outside the game surely that entitles them to set up their own companies outside of their clubs?If it is to avoid tax and is legal, why not? If it is to evade tax and is not legal they will be prosecuted but it seems to me obvious that players will seek to maximize earnings from short careers and I don’t blame them.

          1. No problem with them having companies for other earnings but Saracens/Wray should not be using them to pay the players additional money outside the cap

  6. i think the thing that worries me most about all this is if you look at the England players that have graduated from the Sarries academy then you are looking at a large chunk of the team.
    If Wray pulls out or Sarries have a lean few years then that source of talent may dry up

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    1. I think McCall has been saying this the past few years. They have invested heavily in some of these players who have gone on to become top talent. They should be allowed to hold on to what they’ve helped develop. But then how do they do that when the club is hamstrung by the salary cap and players could leave and command greater wages elsewhere.

        1. I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
          I’m torn on the what the actual impact of higher wages would be on the Prem, but I can also understand Saracen’s frustration when it comes to academy players. Why should they invest all that time/energy/resource into developing a player if they aren’t then able to keep them because of the salary cap.
          Salary caps work in sports like baseball where the MLB is the only viable market. Players aren’t going to leave the US if they don’t secure the wages they want. I don’t think its fit for purpose where there are multiple leagues with different wage policies.

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          1. Why do you play the game is the basic question.
            If the answer is “to become as wealthy as possible”, go and work in the City.
            The Gallagher website lists every fiscal aspect of the wage cap and from what i see, it’s a bloody good deal. It makes interesting reading.

            1. Very questionable argument Acee.
              Any person employed at the pinnacle of a profession should be remunerated accordingly. If you loved a job (not sure if you do, or what you do, but this is a hypothetical) would you take a large pay cut to stay at the company you work for? Or if you were a tradesman, would you provide your labour more cheaply than others? I doubt it.
              Professional rugby has changed. With the introduction BT Sport and Sky and their coverage of games, teams have more access to funding and can remunerate players better to attract talent. It’s ridiculous to suggest that players should turn this down, and instead be happy with “playing the game they love”.
              Don’t forget, these players careers are drastically shorter to yours or mine. Retiring at the age of 36 – which is pushing it for many – they should be able to earn more in a shorter period.

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              1. A very good point Jake – especially about career length. And of course worth pointing out that career could be ended ant any point by serious injury. So of course players will want to maximise their earnings – and we shouldn’t denigrate them for doing so.
                The other thing to consider is that its not just the English leagues that have an effect on this. If we don’t pay top players properly then the temptation to move abroad becomes much stronger.

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              2. Sorry, I’m not buying it. That kind of rhetoric was what led soccer down the mega bucks route. If you are happy for that to happen to Rugby that’s fine. I’m not.
                Let’s not forget, the issue at hand is rule breaking , not fairness of renumeration. That is another subject for another day.

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                1. What do you mean you’re not buying it? What is there to buy?
                  You stated
                  “Why do you play the game is the basic question. If the answer is “to become as wealthy as possible”, go and work in the City”
                  That’s not questioning rule-breaking that’s questioning player motivation. And if you sincerely think players – many of whom have young families – whose careers and sole source of earnings could be ended in seconds by one unlucky tackle, shouldn’t be maximising their earnings then there’s no point in discussing further, because that is quite simply an absurd argument.
                  Of course, if you’re suggesting that the players knew that these payment schemes were against the rules and actively conspired to subvert the salary cap – then that’s a whole different kettle of fish and one you should be careful about opening.

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                  1. Sorry???!! I think YOU need to keep your counsel and not offer veiled threats Pablito. “Sole source of income”? Not for the players we are looking at here. Seasoned internationals with sponsorship deals, public engagements, TV and radio work, etc, etc. take a look at the value of the companies set up in the names of faz, BV,MV etc then ask yourself if they are going to be going around with the begging bowl should their careers end tomorrow…………….
                    I can’t believe the crap that passes for arguments being bandied around on here. Maybe some of you have first hand experience of this type of
                    chicanery? After all, it’s a common enough business practice these days………..

                    1. If they have substantial earnings outside the game surely that entitles them to set up their own companies outside of their clubs?If it is to avoid tax and is legal, why not? If it is to evade tax and is not legal they will be prosecuted but it seems to me obvious that players will seek to maximize earnings from short careers and I don’t blame them.

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                  2. Just to drop a note that it’s not an absurd argument that players should be maximising their earnings (and factors affecting player motivation), it is well evidenced that J Haskell offered to take a pay cut at Wasps before he left.

                    It does seem exceedingly rare though, and we have discussed on these pages before the extinction of the one club player.

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                    1. A good point. It is inspiring when you hear of these acts. I think there is a caveat though that Haskell was entering his twilight years, had a major injury that he hadn’t properly recovered from and surely knew that he would be less integral to the squad than in previous seasons.

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                    2. Brian Moore states that Saracens weren’t claiming that total fin rewards paid to squad were less than sal cap, admitting the total is more, but falls within cap because certain rewards do not form salary. Moore then comments that co-investments are not in the list of allowed rewards in the regs, but are in the not-lowed list as ‘payment in kind a player would have received were not for his involvement with a club’. Then, Saracens claim they did not knowingly breach the cap, but setting up the co-invests was a purposeful act.. this was just like many aggressive tax avoidance schemes that have been found to breach relevant rules. Admin errors – 3 yrs running? Etc. No excuses – accept punishment, move on. For their own (& the game’s) good Saracens should make sure their advertised principles of honesty, humility apply to the whole club, not just certain parts. Drop the(ir) appeal & any claim that the salary cap is unlawful.. both stances are legally flawed. Take yr punishment, be thankful it is not more draconian (!).. Seems good comment, adv to me.

      1. Personally im a fan of the salary cap as u only need to look at football to see the impact of financial deregulation. It becomes a game of deepest pockets win and teams constantly going bust or seeking big money buy outs. The cap as it stands 7m for around 35 players means an average wage of 200k which isnt bad, but thats not considering academy allowances and marquee signing exemptions.
        That said i get the arguement that retaining talent you have developed should be rewarded so would agree with a system that reduced the cap but allowed half an academy graduates wages to be exempt from the cap. That way the likes of Itoje, mako, billy farrell etc would be more easily retained

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      2. Take fullback as a position of example, they developed Alex Goode, and should be within their right to offer high enough wages to prevent him leaving the club (and the premiership). I wholeheartedly agree with that. They also need replacements incase he gets injured during the long season. however, they lose all moral standing on this argument when the replacements they hire are not one but two international first choice fullbacks. How can you expect any club to compete (and stay within the salary cap) over the course of a season when they’re able to rest and rotate three world class players in one position with no decline in quality .

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    2. leon, I’m tempted to say “tough shit”and I’m a fierce England fan. added to which, I don’t accept that we couldn’t put out a very good England team without Sarries players. That suggests the Gallagher is essentially a one club league, which may draw some argument from Devon, the Midlands and Home Counties!
      Nothing has been fully decided yet so lets hope that the final outcome reflects what is best for English club Rugby and that lessons are learned.

      1. Im not saying england is a one club team at all just that Sarries have help nurture and develop players better than many of their rivals. Im also glad that they have been punished because cheating is cheating and shouldnt be rewarded

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        1. Yes Jake. That is the point here. We’re getting side tracked about players maxing, motivation , Sarracens dev’ing players etc. The issue is malpractice, cheating (incl their fellow clubs. players), fraud or embezzlement, by the club & its players involved in this. They are both culbable. There are no excuses. They should be punished appropriately. They have brought the game into pivotal disrepute. There should be no attempts to mitigate or dress this up.

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          1. Precisely. I don’t think anyone can argue that this is a pretty blatant attempt to circumnavigate the cap. The offshoots of this – is it moral/ethical, should it be allowed for player welfare after playing, the issues with the cap itself- are secondary.

      2. What lessons Acee? Not to be shysters, embezzlers, fraudsters? Wray should be permanently drummed out of rugby for being the crook that he is. End of. If he could be jailed, he should be. The ‘I didn’t mean to defraud, it was an accident, honest guv, I didn’t know what I was doing (til I got caught with my fingers in the, er till!)’ defence, is NO defence whatsoever. He’s a business man FCS! Corrupted Itoje, Wiggleswotth, Vunipolas, Farrell whom are also capable BTW. Don’t they have lawyers to scrutinise contracts? Brought the game into disrepute big time! Suspensions, heavy fines mandatory, but won’t hold my breath. Off with their heads, the lot of them, I say. Look what happened to Deano after the ‘bloodgate’ incident. They make him.. & even Sepp Blatter, look good!

        1. Don, I really wish you’d read the whole of what i said because you’d see that I totally agree with what you are saying. Just to re iterate, I just don’t understand why certain contributors seem unable to grasp the severity of what has happened here and yes, the players ARE as guilty as anyone else as I said!

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          1. Yes. I understand that Acee & agree. My point is not that lessons shouldn’t in principle need to be ‘learned’ as such, but rather that there should already be mechanisms in place to prevent malpractice in the 1st place. I just don’t think the word ‘lessons’ is entirely appropriate as it implies that people didn’t know that they shouldn’t be crooks. OTOH, ‘lessons’ could be to put in place better preventative measures to avoid any future recurrence of this current chicanery? Just infuriates me when some talk about ‘lessons’ as a euphemism for preventing wrong doing as if they didn’t know fraud was wrong. IOW, ‘we’ve learned not to put our fingers in the til.. again’! To quote you, ‘bollocks’!

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        2. Agreed with most of that until your last two sentences Don. As a Quins supporter what Richards did was unforgivable and he should have been kicked out for life. Blatter was virtually a full time crook but that is football for you. To be fair you have been on about this for some time, so cannot be surprised that the chickens have come home to roost.

          1. Andy, some things like deliberate financial malpractice which has been systematic as at Sarries, is beyond the pale for me. Richards was wrong of course & as far as I know his was a one off offence & didn’t affect the match in ? Before that & since then, presumably he has & played with a straight bat & did his bit for country etc. A 2nd chance or rehabilitation may be the appropriate or ‘Christian’ thing to do in some circs. I’m inclined to the latter with DR who also has to live with his life long stigma. May be a subjective call, but as he served his crime time, I see his case somewhat differently. Both instances brought & bring the game low of course & adversely affect others. Not least their families, friends, colleagues as well as the wider rugby community. I find myself instinctively drawing a distinction (odd, almost a pun?!) between the likes of Blatter, who I think should have been sent down due to his corruption of a whole sport from the top (bucks & all that) & Deano. Wray is somewhere in between for me, but leaning more towards Blatteresque because of his position & influence. Feel like he should be kicked out, fin hammered & maybe sent to the clink for a bit? Mixed thoughts, emotions still on this one perhaps? Do know though that all of the aforementioned is, has been, bad for rugger & the consequences of the current miss deeds are yet to be realised. I just hope that the issue isn’t fudged over & inappropriate platitudes made to put a glossing it. Potentially perm damage to the game here, further afield? Yes, you could say that I am disappointed about the chickens.

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    3. They’ll just potentially go elsewhere, probably in Eng? If so, not too much of an issue? As for playing style, would it nec be a bad thing not to have Saracens’ influence infusing Eng’s playing patterns? More so as it has illegally helped ‘buy’ Saracens’ success. Also, would 1 club’s dominance of style within the Eng set up nec be for the gr8ter national good?

  7. About time!

    It has been obvious for years that their playing budget seems to be twice (at least twice) everyone else’s.

    The big question, is whether they will have to cut their playing budget immediately or whether they have until the start of next season to do it. Anyone know?

    1. Given that players are contracted for the season they are legally bound to pay their salaries but the underhanded investments should stop immediately unless they are contractual

  8. This sorry affair has all the ingredients necessary for a grade 1 clusterf**k,-the bomb went off this morning and who can tell what the fall-out will be.Needless to say CVC,who have just invested a huge amount of money in the Premiership are not going to be happy,and neither are other investors,who feel that their good name has been sullied.No doubt the RFU will have something to say,but it wont be pretty.
    Sarecens badly need some friends but judging by the 1200+ comments on the BBC they are very few.Whatever the rights and wrongs, Ed Griffiths and friends put a lot of clubs noses out of joint so Saracens wont get much support there.
    Whether there will be any ramifications on the England side remains to be seen.
    To best gauge the feelings of the rugby supporter,one would think that Saracens reception at Kingsholm on Saturday will tell you all you need to know.

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  9. Couldn’t agree more JS10. This is a complete disaster.
    Sarries are Europe’s most successful club not because they paid possibly 6% above the salary cap (see Pete’s workings above), but because they have an incredibly strong ethos that permeates the entire club.
    The academy has been discussed above but they also go to huge lengths to partner with local clubs and schools – a partnership that is greatly beneficial for those clubs and especially their young players.
    They are also probably the UK’s best club for looking after player welfare both during and after their career.
    According to Wikipedia 31 of their current 42 player squad is England qualifed – 16 of whom have England caps, 9 of whom are in the current squad.
    I don’t see how this cannot affect the England team.
    People may not like Saracens but then many people don’t like success in this country. ‘Tall poppy syndrome’ is alive and well in the UK
    Yes they broke the rules. Yes they need to be punished. But this feels excessive – especially since apparently it was stated that their was no deliberate attempt to mislead or breach the salary cap – and I can only hope the club weathers the storm as English rugby needs them.
    BTW – now that this has been exposed I expect to see every other club’s renumeration of their players given the same scrutiny. I wonder how many other clubs have been running similar schemes…

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    1. Absolutely disagree. I’d say they have got off lightly with the scale of the deception involved.

      Years of paying vastly over the cap (which Sarries were instrumental in having set up in it’s current form after the results of a private investigation into them and Bath before..) they could have been looking at forced relegation or trophies being rescinded.

      There have been news reports that the other 11 clubs are banding together and considering refusing to play their games against Saracens if they appeal.

      I feel bad for the fans on this one but for the players involved and the Saracens management I have no sympathy for them whatsoever.

      As for the argument against the cap for keeping hold of talent from the academy? seriously? Get a grip. This affects every club and they have to deal with it without setting up dodgy investment companies that don’t do any work.

      As a Worcester fan I’ve seen plenty of academy players head off to other clubs, Exeter too have made it clear they have had to let good players go for budget reasons.

      This isn’t jealousy against Saracens this is a reaction to a team who have abused the system at the detriment of every other club in the league (that is assuming no other team is guilty of the same…).

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      1. I’m sorry, what deception?
        I cannot find the ruling itself, but it appears that the Panel acknowledged that Saracens did not deliberately seek to mislead anyone or breach the cap
        And if the Panel accept that there was no intention to deceive or to deliberately breach the cap then the punishment is extremely heavy-handed

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        1. So far the only people claiming that is what was acknowledged are the Sarries management. Others have come forward claiming this isn’t the case at all.

          There is a load of information on the Sarries forums where most fans concede that that the club has screwed up and deserve this if not more.

          It’s heavy handed in your opinion, not mine.

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          1. So you think that having just been handed this over the top punishment, Sarries first move would be to put out an easily refuted statement by Premiership rugby? Don’t be ridiculous!

            Also looking at the maths how is 6% over the cap “vastly” over?

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            1. Well exactly. It would take some balls for Sarries and Wray to put a blatant lie in their first responses.
              Anyone claiming differently will have to show some evidence that this is a lie. And if they can then I will change my opinion.
              But if it is correctthen to dock them so many points and fine them so much for what would be a technical breach of the rules is completely heavy handed
              Ps – Ten Ton Donut of course its my opinion. Nowhere did I suggest otherwise

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    2. Pablito, you’re somewhat echoing Andy here, who also seems to mitigate wrong doing. No doubt Saeacens are ‘do gooders’ too as you describe. However, as we’re addressing a moral issue, there’s no excuse in claiming ignorance, or stating that they didn’t intend to act corruptly. There are 2 separate issues involved here & 1 doesn’t justify the other & especially so on the grounds of expediency. The world’s not black & white, but what Saracens did was deemed illegal. The rotten apple. What example to the school kids you mention? Unconscionable I’d have thought. Is it not somewhat disappointing & perhaps a not a little disturbing that yr & Andy’s mitigation stance has uncomfortable connotations in principle with another denier in the not so distant past, albeit in an entirely different context? Is corruption not corruption & anything else a separate issue?

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  10. “the Panel acknowledged it did not deliberately attempt to breach the salary cap”

    I don’t understand this if they were paying players additional money using dummy corporations then that is clearly a deliberate attempt to circumvent the salary cap.

    “The club… steadfastly maintains that player co-investments do not constitute salary under the regulations”
    Only if the investments are genuine investments in a real company VunProp Ltd , Faz Investments Ltd and Wiggy9 Ltd do not sound like real companies to me but happy to be proven wrong

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  11. Just what the doctor ordered for the bulk of the English team to return to! Feel sorry for the English/Sarries players who.have given their all and come back disappointed to return to this.

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    1. Why feel sorry for the players involved? Are we all GENUINELY supposed to swallow the guff that these companies were set up without their knowledge and consent?
      I just don’t know what planet some of the comment posters are on.

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      1. Speaking hypothetically, You can feel sorry for people without agreeing with what they have done can’t you? Otherwise there is no such thing as compassion. In the context of them coming back devastated from the world cup.then yes I do feel sympathy.
        I don’t know the details regarding what’s happened tbh.

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        1. To be clear, I don’t know what relationship the players have with the companies in their name and how that relates to the allegations.
          But regardless I see them as essentially decent and humane people.

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      2. ‘Are we all GENUINELY supposed to swallow the guff that these companies were set up without their knowledge and consent?’

        Without reading back through all the comments, I don’t think this is being argued Acee. If the players were advised by the club’s/their own legal eagles that setting up companies was legit, can they be blamed?

        If it comes to light that these companies were set up purely to boost salaries and had no other purpose then I’d agree the players must have been aware it was shady and share some blame, but do we know that?

        1. If your accountant said “I’ve found a great way I can reduce your tax bill and increase your take home salary by 40%”, many would jump at the opportunity, probably wonder how it’s possible, and but decide to not ask questions.

          These are not naive young academy players, they’re grown up adults, they know there’s a salary cap, and should have known that being given a property in a shell company owned by you and the company owner seems slightly odd, and should at least warrant questions or outside counsel from the premiership. They didn’t ask questions because they wanted the money.

          These are the most high profile rugby names in the country, including the England captain! They’ve been complicit in breaking rules designed to nurture the game in the country. I’m not sure how his position as captain is tenable anymore.

          That’s ignoring the big elephant that the non Sarries England team mates could well be (rightly) pissed off that a rule that limits their own wages is being completely flaunted by their national teammates. I personally could no longer respect a captain involved in that, how would I trust he has my back.

          Thankfully they made the decision to release this after the WC or we may have a had a French scale revolt on our hands.

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          1. Reducing tax liability isn’t illegal though in many cases. That’s what accountants are for surely.

            I don’t think the age of the player really matters, they’re all still relatively young anyway. If this has been going on for a few years then Farrell would’ve been 25, Billy 24. I would not expect them to spend too much time worrying about their finances when they have professional rugby to worry about. They will have advisers making these judgments and decisions for them.

            A lot of these players will have been on different salaries to begin with remember. Tuilagi has been commanding a huge salary for years, so will he have been the envy of his teammates? I guess that doing this whilst flaunting the salary cap is a different matter, but if you are suggesting that teammates will be jealous of others due to wealth, then that will always have been present even before this broke.

            Does anyone know what, exactly, the arrangements were? What was invested, what was the income, when is/was this accessible, what collateral did the player put up, what business activity was undertaken? Genuinely interested.

            1. Tax avoidance isn’t necessarily illegal but evasion is, and in the example I was using evasion is the most similar as salary cap avoidance is breaking a rule (not a illegal of course, but is similar in the context of rules that Saracens agreed to in joining the premiership).

              I’m not suggesting teammates are jealous purely based on wealth. but imagine a hypothetical situation where a player just signed a new contract with their own club, it’s less than they were offered abroad, the club says they cant offer more due to the cap. They chose to remain for the chance to play for England. They then find out a significant number of other England players have been ignoring the rule with their clubs and therefore making above what perhaps should be possible at an English club with so many players. It isn’t about wealth jealousy, it’s about equality. England players all have to play in the English league with a cap which certainly reduces potential salary earnings, primarily because they want to play for England (ignoring family reasons etc).

              The exact arrangements aren’t known. however you can see publicly available info on Companies House by searching. Details were also in the Daily Mails article which broke the story. For example the Vunipolas company was made up of something like £1.5 million in property, with a £1 mil bank loan. I’m probably guessing here, but I’d assume Wray put up the deposit, secured the loan, and then would write off his own loan on completion of contracts.

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              1. Good point re equality/fairness.

                I’m not a Saracen’s supporter but my concern now is how this impacts the England team. Whether there are knock on effects at Saracens – players having to leave/losing moral and playing worse – or whether this leads to an greater malcontent amongst the England squad. We will find out in due course no doubt.

        2. Yes & yes. In law ignorance is no excuse. This case is not actually in law as it’s within the domain of an outside body. However, the principle should still hold good. In the wider context, it’s the game’s rep at stake here & not just in Eng. A case of the gr8ter good chsp? Besides, try telling a copper when you’re pulled over & the breathalyser turns positive, that you didn’t intend to drive whilst pissed! Also, stating that you thought the steering had gone probably won’t cut it either. Worth a try in Sarries case though? They & some here seem to think it’s worth a ‘punt’ though. Undoubtedly Boris would likely think so too wouldn’t he?

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          1. Sorry to be pedantic Don,but this IS a case in law.All the Premiership Clubs and the Premier League have a binding agreement or contract.All contracts are subject to English Law,otherwise they are void and unenforceable.

            1. Yes, ok JS10, thanks. However, it’s a case for the internal body to investigate etc. The Law won’t, or is unlikely to, get involved unless an interested party decides to take the matter to court. Could have been clearer on this. Contracts etc must be binding as a legal requirement I suppose. Just hope it’s not all fudged over. Some here seem to excuse Saracens actions by stating how otherwise what a jolly well run, decent outfit they are. Will the schoolboys’ mothers want them to join a bunch of shysters?

          2. With you all the way on this one. i will reiterate that some of the arguments put forward by certain people are spectacularly wide of the mark. Defending the indefensible…………..

  12. There have been grumblings for yrs about Saracens chicanery. ‘Prove it’ was their response. Well, seems as if it has been. However, the mealy mouthed get out that they didn’t know what they were doing, may yet reprieve these charlatans. There are those whom support & even admire the underhand way in which Saracens have dressed up their culture as one of loyalty, hard yakka & an ‘all for one & one for all’ phoney, musketeer like club persona. However, when you look at the numbers of overseas & international mercenaries whom have played for the organisation, it is staggering. 41 from Eng, 15 Saffas, 10 Frenchmen, 9 Aussies & Scots each, 7 Irish, Welsh, Fijians & Kiwis each, 4 Italians, 3 Tongans, 2 Yanks, Canadians & Argentinians each, plus the odd Roumanian or whatever. Saracens also have ‘feeder’, or ‘partner’, club links in Georgia, Seattle, Timisoara (eh, sp?), Abu Dhabi, K Lumpur, Amman, Moscow, Kenya. S Paulo & Tonga; obviously to benefit all of these ‘recipients’. So much for this well run & organised club in which actual corruption seems to be integral to the bedrock of their success. The Lance Armstrongs of rugby, will they be stripped of their spuriously gained domestic & Euro titles over the last few yrs & pay compo back to those whom were fleeced by their misdeeds? Unbloody likely, but WR & The RFU should also make an example here. Not least as a deterrent for further such unconscionable happenings.

    1. It’s worth noting there is no salary cap in European competition as there is no level playing field so the titles they have won in Europe are not tainted

      1. Is this not a spurious & an apologist’s argument though Leon? That Saracens breached legality, they may not have won Euro gongs because they may have been unable to have ‘bought’ all of those players involved in the 1st place.

  13. I for one would like to know what our esteemed ruling body(RFU) are doing in response to this shambles.From the ouside it appears that they are playing Nero and waiting to see which way the wind is blowing!.
    Maybe they are hamstrung by not wanting to say anything which could be construed as affecting any possible appeal.
    One thing is for certain-this matter is not going away!

  14. I’m guessing that this brings into question the entire foundation on which the English club rugby system is built – wealthy benefactors. Saracens and the upper echelons of their management have huge questions to answer. The players in question too, they should certainly have started asking questions when ‘creative’ ways to be remunerated were tabled to them by the Club. However, did they knowingly go into these arrangements aware of how their individual position was distorting Saracen’s position on the salary cap? I’d be surprised if they were but it makes if far, far worse if they were.

    I really wouldn’t be surprised if this pushed the English game into a form of consolidation, with the premier league clubs forming franchises and perhaps a Super League. Does it also bring into question the benefit of having more centrally contracted players, loaned to clubs as guns for hire but effectively controlled by the RFU..?

    I can see short-term mayhem and a lot of stones in glass houses but hopefully in the long term there will be benefits.

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  15. Another way to look at this is to compare it to the 100m final / Tour de France scenario where it is highly likely there is a doper within the field so instead of spending a fortune trying to police it, could it be better to de-regulate the system and just let them all go nuts…?

    Please all note that I am merely playing devils advocate here and in principal support the salary cap as a means of sustaining a game which does not receive the audience share of football, GP, cricket in the UK.

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      1. There are some articles in circulation about doping in rugby at the moment… A ticking time bomb for the sport if you ask me – and not just for the country that the article is aimed at!

  16. Wray has stated that the investments made into what he calls joint ventures were fully disclosed to Premiership Rugby. Do people really think that someone that deals with businesses legalities on a daily basis didn’t carry out due diligence before embarking on them. Without full transparency the truth as ever will remain murky; 9 months of investigation doesn’t seem to point to obvious and clear intent to mislead. Retrospectively deciding that such schemes now indeed do contravene the salary cap maybe highlight more negligence with the administration of Premiership Rugby than with Wray and his legal team.
    Drawing comparisons with tax evasion and breaching salary caps is all well and good, but I’d be surprised if there are any legally constituted punishments for individual players receiving renumeration in any kind if the financial regulations are complied with.
    Of course everyone is entitled to their opinions, it’s a blog, and if clear evidence of deception is proven then hopefully the appropriate punishment will be sanctioned.

    1. “Wray has stated that the investments made into what he calls joint ventures were fully disclosed to Premiership Rugby”

      the press release/article would disagree with that

      “The decision of the Independent Panel is that Saracens Rugby Club failed to disclose payments to players in each of the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.”

    2. Well, QC’s, former judges have found Saracens guilty… after a 9 mth investigation D Stan. Take yr pt, but the investigative team can’t have been a bunch of maladroit mugs. If the rules weren’t up to it, then surely Ssracens would have been exonerated? Found the ‘not deliberately’ bit contradictory, I must state.

      1. The public announcement prepared by Sports Resolutions ran to 145 words. Premiership Rugby say they have no intention of publishing the full report. Why? One has to suspect that it is because it shows Premiership Rugby in a far worse light than it does Saracens. Until we see the figures and the details, which apparently is not going to happen, nobody has any real idea how much Sarries have transgressed by. Neither do we know what legal advice Wray received about the legality of his actions from Premiership Rugby, or whether that advice has since been changed. Don, you have accused me on here of “mitigating” the offences, so I will make my view clear. If they are guilty of substantially exceeding the salary cap they should be fined, probably more heavily than they have been, have points deducted or even be relegated. However, very little evidence has been made public thus far, and there is a definite jealousy in many other clubs about what Sarries have achieved. At least some of their problems have been caused by bringing through a stream of good young players who go on to become internationals commanding high salaries and who don´t want to leave the club because it is generally well run, well coached, successful and a valued part of its local community. There is a definite element of tall poppy syndrome here, and I for one would like the full facts to emerge before throwing too many accusations around.

        1. While i agree with the sentiment innocent until proven guilty there is also an argument for there is no smoke without fire.
          It has been widely accepted that Saracens are able to maintain a larger, higher value squad than their competitors while regularly making high profile new signings. There have been grumblings about cap breaches for many years from many sources close to the game.

          While the report has not been made public and almost certainly never will (not because of optics but because of confidentiality of financial dealings) we can only speculate about what has gone down. However from what is in the public domain, Wray has been investing significant sums of money into private companies owned by the players which PR have deemed within cap and Wray has deemed out of cap. An independent legal body have sided with PR so now the burden of proof lies with Saracens to show that this was a legit investment which does not constitute payment within the terms of the salary cap agreement
          If they win the appeal it sanctifies a loophole that all clubs, that can afford it, will start to use, which is not something I want to see as it makes the cap meaningless

        2. Well, it’s no accusation that Saracens have been found guilty Andy. Whether others are jealous is a separate issue & whilst this may or may not colour their views, this does not alter the fact about Saracens’ wrong doing. Neither does yr point about their being a well run, successful club. Nor does yr comment about Wray’s legal advice. Brian Moore’s comments negate this. Wray just needed to have read the salary, investment rules. This is what I deem attempts to mitigate Saracens’ behaviour. It all doesn’t justify their wrongful actions. Admirable though some of Saracens efforts may be, they have been underpinned by corruption. They are thus tainted at base level. Agree re the non publication by PR though. Leave themselves open to covering up, er corruption?

          1. That is just the point though Don. We know they are guilty of something if we presume that this in an honest group of people who wrote the report, but we have no idea what. How much did they exceed the salary cap by? Have the RFU changed their rules on how salaries may be paid? Precisely what written communication took place between the RFU and Saracens? Have they had a chance to read and absorb the full report before the punishment was made public? We cannot reasonably express an opinion unless we know the precise nature and seriousness of the offence. It´s like a bloke farting on the bus on the way back from an away game. Did he sneak out a mildly malodorous waft which was noticed by the bloke beside him who decided to embarrass him by spreading the word because he didn´t particularly like him, in which case he has been a bit unlucky, or did he fire off an earth shattering blast from the bowels of hell reeking of stale beer and curry, and making passers by and all other inmates of the bus gag and vomit. In that case he deserves to be strapped naked to the roof of the mini bus in the pouring rain for the next 100 miles? Context is everything, and we have none. Also, your suggestion that Sarries being a good club in terms of player welfare, community involvement etc is irrelevant, is wide of the mark. If I pinch a million quid and use it to supply firearms to political radicals to shoot immigrants there is no mitigation, but if I use that same million quid to feed the hungry or combat homelessness, I can claim at least some mitigation on the grounds that my intentions were honorable. I believe that Sarries set out to build a great club. They have certainly made some bad decisions and mistakes, but on balance the standard of play in the Prem. is certainly better for the fact that they have given everyone else something to aspire to. Finally, your comparison of Wray with Blatter is ludicrous. Wray has had a blameless and extremely successful business career and like Duckworth at Worcester has ploughed millions of his own money into building a club that in many ways has acted as an exemplar to the rest of the Premiership on how to build a sustainable business. Blatter on the other hand was a criminal shyster who took far more out of football than he ever put in and should have been locked up. The two are in no way comparable in my book.

            1. Based on what is already known we can surmise that the fart whilst silent has drifted at least two or three rows from point of origin and smells bad enough to have people pinching their noses and looking around for the culprit

              1. You should have seen it before it was edited Don. I may have been guilty of inadvertently exceeding the word cap, but I would plead that it was not clear exactly how that cap operated, who is responsible for its oversight, and whether you are allowed P.S´s or not. Hutch has not advised me that there is a limit, and if curtailed in full flow I shall consult my legal advisers and appeal. And of course I have been at the red wine again. When it´s a quid a litre it would be rude not to

    3. We’ll the panel didn’t think so D Stan. Nor did they deem Wray’s actions retro either. ‘Murky’ didn’t feature either. They found Saracens guilty. Are you a fan?

      1. No Don, can’t claim to be a fan of anyone in the Prem’ to be honest. Time constraints make it impossible to get fully engaged with any club unfortunately, nprobably just voicing counterpoint against a tirade of hostility.
        Coventry would be the team Don, for no other reason than when I was a nip, David Duckham came over and did a coach day for the juniors and minis. His side step started at the half way line and his next footstep landed inside the 25…..an English Gazelle,….brilliant….

  17. Going back to my Law studies of many years ago,this matter falls directly under what is termed misrepresentation,which,is either innocent,negligent,or fraudulent.
    As the the Independent panel has already deemed that there has been a failure to disclose,then ,if Saracens cant challenge this as a matter of fact then they are guilty of Misrepresentation.
    As there is no evidence or suggestion of fraud we are left with innocent or negligent misrepresentation.
    There are 57 pages relating to the salary cap regulations,if Saracens had queries as to their course of action they should have obtained outside legal opinion in writing-This appears not to have been done.
    There is the legal maxim of “ignorantus juris non excusat” or ignorance of the law is no excuse.
    By failing to check as to whether their their course of action was acceptable one is forced to conclude that Saracens are guilty of negligence.As a matter of law negligence can only be used as a mitigating factor in the level of sentence,It cannot be used to absolve you of ALL culpability,either criminal or civil.

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  18. Reports going round that Eddie is seeking to get central control over his top 20 or so players from the RFU. How is this going to dovetail with the Sarries issue?

  19. I am just baffled by the defence of Sarries by some posters on here.
    Surely all of you supporters must of least have suspected that your club were breaking the salary cap? Did you really believe that you could have all of those internationals and British and Irish lions in one team and be under? Did you really? No one else did.
    Whereas I have some sympathy for the supporters – nothing they could have done to change this – and indeed the players – why not chase extra money and titles in a short career – I can’t believe that either didn’t suspect or know what was going on, so my sympathy is limited.
    Ultimately what the club has done is cheated all of the other clubs in the premiership, and the other clubs players and the other clubs supporters, which includes me. So really do you want to defend these actions?

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      1. Good man!

        Sorry, may have been repeating what you said, but I have to admit to not reading all of the comments on my way down the page. There were quite a few!

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