Saracens relegated: latest reaction on Premiership Rugby's decision to demote reigning champions

Jake Goodwill
Saracen's relegation was announced early Saturday evening - Action Images

Saracens are to be relegated from English rugby's top division at the end of the season for breaching salary cap rules, Premiership Rugby announced on Saturday. Telegraph Sport takes a look at the immediate reaction from key figures in Premiership Rugby.

Neil Golding, chairman of Saracens, 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.’’

Tony Rowe, chairman of Exeter Chiefs, who have been vocal in criticising Saracens throughout the salary cap saga told BBC Devon: "They've taken relegation. They had two choices: they could either open up their books for a forensic audit, or they could take relegation. So it was their choice. They have decided to take relegation.

"Everybody has had their suspicion for a long time. Five years ago they were hauled over the coals for similar offences. We just want a level playing field.

"We just want to move on. They have cheated and I'm just a bit upset it has taken so long. They are still picking their team from a squad that is still in breach. They have been asked to reduce the squad back as well."

While Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Steve Diamond reacted by saying: "It's disappointing to know that a team have been cheating.

"The powers that be have decided that it is obviously the right punishment so we get on with it."

The relegation of Saracens has lead to speculation regarding the futures of their star-studded squad. Chris Boyd, Director of Rugby at Northampton Saints said:“If you think clubs will suddenly find a pot of gold to take on Saracens players then I would say you are mistaken.

“We are like most clubs who try to manage their budget very closely and there is certainly not £500,000 sitting there waiting for somebody.”

10:20PM

That is it for tonight from me!

There will be more reaction to come on the Telegraph Sport website tonight and tomorrow. Feel free to leave your comments below.

10:06PM

England's Six Nations squad to hold clear-the-air talks over Saracens salary cap controversy

Eddie Jones will attempt to ensure there is no fall-out from the Saracens salary-cap controversy by holding a ‘clear-the-air meeting’ to address any issues held by players from other clubs when his England squad assembles next week, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. 

Jones is due to name a 35-man Six Nations squad on Monday amid concerns at the anger directed at Saracens from the rival clubs over their salary cap breaches. 

Read Gavin Mairs' full piece here

10:04PM

Charlie Morgan on what is next for Saracens, England and the Lions

Whatever closure Saracens thought they had has now been blown apart once more. Chaos reigns. The squad, evidently, needs significant trimming and rearranging. Any remaining players in the international shake-up will face awkward questions of whether they can be selected for England from a Championship club. Precedent exists and RFU policy decrees that it is not a problem. Eddie Jones may well think otherwise.

There is also the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to think about. Will Warren Gatland consider those that have been dirt-tracking up to Doncaster, across to Cornish Pirates and over to Jersey? Club loyalty is unlikely to be a factor when he is assembling a group to take on the mighty Springboks.

Read the full piece here 

9:54PM

How will Saracens perform tomorrow?

While the match against Racing 92 tomorrow seems rather insignificant in light of today's events, I can't help but wonder what Saracens will turn up tomorrow.

They may well be galvanised but the severity of the news could have the opposite effect. Will a chance to show unity and win a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals be enough to pick them back up?

9:30PM

Sir Ian McGeechan predicts a strong performance from Saracens tomorrow:

"We will get something else loud and clear on Sunday, though; we are going to get a huge response from Saracens in Europe. There is only one thing we all know for sure, at the moment, and that is they can still win the Champions Cup. That is what the players have to worry about."

Read Geech's full piece here

9:28PM

Is this the next step?

Rob Baxter said back in November:

"It's pretty obvious those titles have been won unfairly," Exeter's director of rugby said at the Champions Cup launch in Cardiff, which Saracens avoided attending.

"If you're asking me would I like to walk into Sandy Park and see three Premiership trophies there, I would love to.

"In reality do I see that happening? No. There are too many other factors that come into play.

"I believe the way we played in the final last year would have beaten any other team in the Premiership."

Should Saracens keep their titles? It is certainly up for debate.

9:18PM

The Premiership is effectively ring-fenced for the rest of the season - will it lead to more attacking rugby and more opportunities for young players?

Or will it lead to meaningless games... 

9:09PM

What are your thoughts?

Let us know by commenting below. Is this the right decision? Should it have happened earlier? Where should the Saracens players go, if they leave?

9:04PM

And here is Steve Diamond's reaction:

 “It's disappointing to know that a team have been cheating.

“The powers that be have decided that it is obviously the right punishment so we get on with it.”

9:01PM

More Tony Rowe:

Speaking to BBC Devon he said:

"Everybody has had their suspicion for a long time. 5 years ago they were hauled over the coals for similar offences. We just want a level playing field.

"We just want to move on. They have cheated and I'm just a bit upset it has taken so long. They are still picking their team from a squad that is still in breach. They have been asked to reduce the squad back as well."

8:59PM

Here is a timeline of the salary cap saga:

8:55PM

What will happen to the Saracens squad?

One of the key questions that has arisen from today's announcement regards the future of the current Saracens squad. Will other clubs come in to sign them? Do they have the salary cap space to do so?

Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd said yesterday, few clubs have a “pot of gold” with which to sign those Saracens stars, who face individual meetings at the start of this week to confirm their futures. The likes of Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, whose co-investment schemes with former chairman Nigel Wray were at the nexus of the crisis, are now left trapped between a rock and a hard place of loyalty versus ambition. 

Will we see them in the Championship or elsewhere? France? Japan? Premiership rivals? Who knows at this point.

8:48PM

Brian Moore wrote in 2015 that the lack of transparency over the salary cap was problematic

Unnamed clubs had breached the salary cap but a settlement was agreed between the clubs, keeping the details private.

Brian Moore wrote:

The way this has been handled has damaged Premiership rugby. Nobody wants fans not renewing season tickets, cancelling sponsor’s products and being treated contemptuously by their own clubs. They obviously think this will just do away. It might do but fans will not forget which clubs are culpable and the fact that they did not have the balls to be transparent. It is the cover-up that has done most damage and the cynicism it generated will be difficult to remove.

The way this has been handled has damaged Premiership rugby. Nobody wants fans not renewing season tickets, cancelling sponsor’s products and being treated contemptuously by their own clubs. They obviously think this will just do away. It might do but fans will not forget which clubs are culpable and the fact that they did not have the balls to be transparent. It is the cover-up that has done most damage and the cynicism it generated will be difficult to remove.

Has the lack of transparency in 2015 been the root of the problem this season?

Read the full article here

8:37PM

Is the punishment fitting for the crime?

Before today's announcement, Austin Healey said in a column for the Daily Telegraph  that:

All this being said I do think relegation is perhaps too draconian a punishment. Clearly the other clubs are furious and want their pound of flesh. Could you devise a one-off mechanism where each club takes a pick of Saracens’ players like in the draft? So the Newcastle Falcons could get Farrell and Irish get Itoje? Then say their salary does not count towards the cap for the next two years.

Do Saracens deserve to be relegated? 

8:32PM

Exeter have been Saracen's most vocal critics in the salary cap saga

Exeter Chairman Tony Rowe told BBC Devon this evening:

"They've taken relegation. They had two choices: they could either open up their books for a forensic audit, or they could take relegation. So it was their choice. They have decided to take relegation."

8:29PM

Saracens' comment:

Neil Golding, chairman of Saracens, 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.’’

8:29PM

Full Premiership Rugby Statement:

Darren Childs, Chief Executive of Premiership Rugby, 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. 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."

8:26PM

Saracens relegation confirmed by Premiership Rugby

Saracens are to be relegated from English rugby's top division at the end of the season for breaching salary cap rules, Premiership Rugby announced on Saturday.

Saracens, who had already accepted an initial 35-point deduction, are bottom of the 12-team Premiership table with -7 points despite winning six of their eight games and bagging four bonus points.

British media reports had said on Friday that Saracens were to receive a further 35 point deduction and that the club were accepting of the decision.

They were initially sanctioned for breaking the 7-million-pound ($9.11 million) salary cap for three consecutive seasons during which they won the title twice.

"Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs," Darren Childs, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said in a statement.

"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.