Saracens have been handed a £5 million fine and a 35-point deduction in the Premiership following the decision by an independent disciplinary panel with regard to breaching the Premiership Rugby salary cap regulations.
The charges were brought forward in June this year after a nine-month investigation in relation to the salary caps for each of the three seasons between 2016 and 2019 and the panel concluded that Sarries failed to disclose payments to players for each of the three seasons.
Not only that but they found that the English club had exceeded the payments to senior squad members in each season too and due to this they would uphold the charges meaning that Saracens received a hefty fine of £5,360,272.31 and have been deducted 35 points for this Premiership season.
Speaking on the verdict a Premiership Rugby spokesperson explained that the salary cap is there for a reason and that by breaching it any club deserves punishment.
“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 spokesperson said.
The independent panel also rejected Saracens challenge on competition law grounds to the validity of the regulations.
Saracens may seek a review of the decision and in that case all sanctions would become suspended until the result of such a review but that review may only be sought if there is a basis that an error has been made in the law, the decision is irrational or that they feel there is some form of procedural unfairness within the decision.
The good news for Saracens is that the punishment does not extend outside the Premiership meaning they face no further sanctions on a European competition level.
However, the decision has put the current Premiership and Champions Cup holders in real danger of being relegated as they now currently sit on -26 points, 30 points off second from bottom Bath having been in fourth on 9 points before the verdict. It could also be costly to the club as a low finish in the league could see them miss out on a European spot next season and star players could seek moves elsewhere to play on the biggest stage of all.
Leicester Tigers head coach, Dan McKellar said: “The group, players and staff were on the go for 23 weeks straight so getting away from the game for a period was really beneficial and we’ve come back in enthused for this challenge this week.
“Ealing are a team full of experience and quality, so we’ll have to be at our best to get the result we want, on a big day for the likes of Hanro and Finn.
“It’s fitting that Hanro leads us on his 100th game. He carried a lot of the leadership burden during the World Cup and continues to be someone the boys can count on to lead with his actions.”
Scott MacLeod is returning to Newcastle Falcons as line-out coach, with the former Scotland lock on board until at least the end of the season.
The Hawick native spent 11 years with the Falcons, making 61 appearances as a player before joining the coaching team in 2016.
Having departed Kingston Park last summer MacLeod will now return to impart his expertise, combining coaching commitments with working for his family’s business in the Scottish Borders.
Newcastle Falcons’ consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “Scott is a well-respected line-out specialist who can help us make some big gains in that area between now and the end of the season.
“He knows and loves the club, he’s very well regarded here and I’m looking forward to getting him back involved.
“We’ve initially said it’s until the end of the season and I know Scott has other business commitments, but if it works well for both parties over the next few months then we’ll be happy to look at extending it beyond that.”
Capped 24 times by Scotland in a playing career which also saw him starring for Border Reivers, Edinburgh, Scarlets, Kobelco Steelers and Newcastle, the set-piece specialist is relishing the prospect of reinvigorating the Falcons’ line-out during the remainder of the season.
MacLeod said: “Our line-out has consistently been in the top four of the Premiership over the past few years, so hopefully I can come in and help get us back up there.
“I’ve been watching the games from afar this season because Newcastle Falcons is still a big part of my life, even though I’ve not been personally involved since the summer. I just want to come in and make a positive difference, get us back to where we should be and help the boys.”
Having spent more than a decade at Kingston Park as a player and coach, MacLeod insisted the opportunity to return was just too good to pass up.
“I’ve missed the place a lot,” said the 44-year-old.
“I’m now working for my family’s business, MacLeod Glass, up in Hawick, but I’m sure any sportsperson will tell you they miss being in and around that team environment. It’s certainly very different going from a Premiership rugby club to working in a factory every day, and it’s been a shock to the system.
“I’ll now get to combine both, and I’ve missed being involved with the professional game. I’ve been coaching my son’s S2 side to get my rugby fix, but I’m buzzing to be back with the Falcons. It’s a really special club for me.”
Setting out with one clear aim, the Scot said: “I just want us to get our identity back.
“I’ll come in, assess our strengths and our weaknesses and come up with a plan accordingly. I know some of the players really well and I don’t know others at all, but luckily with us having this big break before our next game it’s absolutely ideal timing for getting things in place.
“One thing you have to bear in mind with Newcastle is how bad the weather is, in terms of how much you can push it in the line-out, but I just want to get the confidence back into the boys.
“It’s about simple things being done well on a consistent basis, and I’m starting this week to help put it in motion.
“I’ve got a few weeks to get to know the guys I’ve not worked with before, see how it all ties in with the lads I already know and then knit it all together into a game plan which works best for the team.
“As I say, I just want us to have that Newcastle Falcons identity again when it comes to the line-out, and I’m really positive about things. We’ll see how it works between now and the end of the season, and if everyone’s happy then we can see where it goes.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next home game is against Leicester Tigers on Good Friday (March 29), with tickets on sale for the 7.45pm kick-off by clicking here.