Sabbaticals and overseas friendlies all part of innovative proposals as Saracens plan to keep stars 


Sabbaticals and overseas friendlies are all part of innovative proposals as Saracens plan to keep stars despite Premiership relegation

  • Saracens are devising a plan to prevent their star players from leaving the club
  • The club’s relegation has been confirmed after they breached salary cap rules
  • Sarries may play friendlies in South Africa as well as Championship fixtures
  • Club directors plan to contact Eddie Jones in hope of reaching a compromise

Saracens chiefs are thrashing out a radical plan featuring overseas games and sabbaticals in a bid to prevent star names from jumping ship when the club are relegated.

Owen Farrell and the rest of their England contingent face emergency one-on-one meetings on Monday and Tuesday to determine their futures following the salary cap breach.

The club’s relegation was confirmed on Sunday in a statement by Premiership Rugby. Darren Childs, the PR’s chief executive, said: ‘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.

Owen Farrell is among the Saracens stars set for emergency meetings to decide their futures

Owen Farrell is among the Saracens stars set for emergency meetings to decide their futures

‘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.’

A year in the Championship is an unappealing option for Saracens players with international ambitions because they would be coming up against teams featuring part-timers and students.

‘Saracens will respect the competition but it’s not in the players’ best interests or the Championship clubs’ best interests for international players to be playing those games week in and week out,’ said a source.

Saracens' relegation was confirmed on Sunday in a statement by Premiership Rugby

Saracens’ relegation was confirmed on Sunday in a statement by Premiership Rugby

The news of Saracens' salary cap scandal has led the news agenda for the last 10 months

The news of Saracens’ salary cap scandal has led the news agenda for the last 10 months

The club hierarchy are already working on innovative proposals to incentivise players to stay put.

According to Mail on Sunday sources, one option being considered is a series of friendly matches in South Africa to run alongside Championship fixtures.

Discussions have been held about flying to Cape Town for a three-team tournament that would double up as pre-season friendlies for Super Rugby sides.

Such fixtures would provide a better platform for players wanting to make the 2021 Lions tour — with a return game in London also mooted.

Established Test players will be sounded out about taking part-sabbaticals to limit their game time in the increasingly crowded fixture schedule.

The club want to include Lions coach Warren Gatland and England head coach Eddie Jones in the conversations to help reach a satisfactory compromise.

The club want to consult England head coach Eddie Jones regarding overseas friendly plans

The club want to consult England head coach Eddie Jones regarding overseas friendly plans

HOW IT HAS ALL UNFOLDED…

March 4 – Sportsmail investigation sends ripples through sport with revelations about investment partnerships between Nigel Wray and Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola and Billy Vunipola and property-sharing arrangements

March 5 – Clubs and former players call for formal probe into Saracens

March 6 – Sportsmail understands a rival club has hired forensic accountants to look into Saracens

March 7 – Sportsmail reveals Maro Itoje has company linked to Nigel Wray

March 11 – Nigel Wray releases a statement in response to Sportsmail’s investigations, saying ‘Investment is not salary’ and ‘The Club is open and transparent with the salary cap manager and we proactively disclose co-investments when they occur, even though we are under no obligation to do so. We respect the rules and the salary regulations that are in place.’

March 13 – Premiership Rugby will not confirm whether Nigel Wray’s understandings of the salary cap rules are correct

April 9 – Sportsmail understands Premiership Rugby interrogating former Saracens players

April 10 – Premiership Rugby announce formal review into Saracens after it is found the club did not disclose all details of co-investment partnerships

August 3 – Rival clubs demand update on salary cap review, telling Sportsmail they are being ‘kept in the dark’

September 3 – Sportsmail reveals that the matter has been passed to specialist arbitrators Sport Resolutions

September 24 – Clubs dismiss idea of an out-of-court settlement being made with Saracens at conclusion of disciplinary proceedings

October 26 – Sportsmail reveals that Saracens’s group head of finance Bernard Van Zyl – who had responsibility at the club for managing the salary cap – has left, along with fellow director Nick Leslau, who had been at the club for over 20 years

November 5 – Saracens were docked 35 points and fined £5.3million after being found guilty of breaching the salary cap

November 18 – Saracens decide they will not appeal their punishments with chairman Nigel Wray claiming: ‘Perhaps we have done the wrong thing for the right reasons’

December 19 – Premiership Rugby announce an independent review into salary cap regulations in light of the Saracens scandal, led by ex-government minister Lord Myners

December 26 – Liam Williams agrees a deal to leave Saracens and join Scarlets on a £400,000 per year deal

January 2 – Nigel Wray quits as Saracens chairman and admits ‘it’s time for a fresh start’ at the club 

January 4 – New Saracens chief Edward Griffiths apologises ‘unreservedly’ for club’s salary cap breaches

January 16 – Saracens face the prospect of automatic relegation after other clubs turned on them 

It is understood that the club’s preference would be to loan out younger players such as Ben Earl to continue their development.

‘There’s not one individual plan, there are 45 different plans,’ said a source.

It is yet to be seen whether the club can convince key players not to sever all ties at Allianz Park.

Most Premiership rivals are already close to the salary cap so are unable to break the bank for Test stars.

Chris Boyd, Northampton Saints’ director of rugby, said: ‘If you think that 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 closely and there is not £500,000 sitting there waiting for somebody.’

Given the exceptional circumstances, the option of loaning players to provinces in Ireland will be discussed.

Some Premiership clubs are on the lookout for specialist positions and agents are well aware of their requirements.

The possibility of loaning players to provinces in Ireland will be discussed by directors

The possibility of loaning players to provinces in Ireland will be discussed by directors

Leicester, for example, have two hookers out of contract and have already been contacted about potential moves for Jamie George or Jack Singleton.

Some player departures will be inevitable because Saracens need to bring down their wage bill in order to comply with the £7million cap.

Farrell, George, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, are coming to terms with short-term career uncertainty.

After today’s Champions Cup game against Munster, Saracens CEO Ed Griffiths and head coach Mark McCall have only two days before players leave for the Six Nations.

England begin their pre-season training camp in Portugal this week and tensions could be high when players convene.

‘Clear-the-air’ talks could be necessary. Before the latest developments, prop Mako Vunipola said: ‘If people need to have those conversations then we’ll have them.’

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