Saracens are facing automatic relegation from rugby’s Premiership after rival clubs turned on them over the salary cap scandal.
Unless they can prove within a week they will comply with the £7million cap this season, the champions stand to be sent down in a sensational twist to the scandal uncovered by a Sportsmail investigation into their finances last year.
While a move to demote Saracens regardless of their points tally at the end of the season is not finalised, it is increasingly likely because they are struggling to meet the salary limit again this campaign.
Saracens’ season is in chaos after breaching the salary cap and they’re on brink of relegation
Two invidious options were presented to the disgraced domestic and European Champions at a Premiership Rugby (PRL) meeting on Tuesday.
Sarries were told they either had to hand back their titles won in the three years they have been proven to have broken the cap, and let auditors fully investigate club finances, or face the drop to the Championship in June.
The suggestion on Thursday night was that the five-time domestic champions, who have already been docked 35 points and fined £5.36m for cap breaches over the previous three seasons, will probably accept the latter offer.
When new chief executive Ed Griffiths arrived at the start of the month, Saracens said they would take immediate steps to comply with the cap and were committed to following the rules.
However, a source told Sportsmail Saracens have admitted to being ‘way over’ the cap this season and have swiftly realised that they cannot cut costs sufficiently quickly and comprehensively.
A ‘long list’ of players available for transfer has been circulated, but there has not been the required interest, partly because Saracens previously adopted a policy of cutting agents out of deals.
Team coach Mark McCall has had a difficult job this season of steering his side clear of danger
The Saracens squad will hold an emergency meeting at 8.30 on Friday morning to consider the latest incredible twist in this sorry tale.
Under the present rules, any sanctions for breaches of the salary cap are used as a ‘starting point’ and can be upgraded or downgraded as necessary.
PRL announced last month a comprehensive review of the cap regulations to be led by former government minister Lord Myners— and new CEO Darren Childs suggested that harsher punishments in future could include relegation and stripping of titles.
News of this latest development came on the day retired chairman Nigel Wray cut all formal ties with Saracens and handed his shares to his children in the fallout of the salary cap breach that rocked the sport.
In November, Saracens were fined the largest sum in rugby history and dropped to the bottom of the table after a Sportsmail investigation prompted the inquest.
Wray’s investment ventures with star players including Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje formed the basis of Premiership Rugby’s investigation.
Chairman Nigel Wray retired from his role at the club amid the ongoing salary cap scandal
Having stepped down as chairman earlier this month, Companies House files announced Wray had resigned as a director of the club and its parent company Premier Team Holdings.
The multi-millionaire has been on the hunt for co-investment since 2018 and was reportedly willing to sell at least half of his ownership.
Despite taking a step back, Wray’s family remain heavily involved and will continue to bankroll the club.
Sarries CEO Griffiths told Sportsmail on Thursday: ‘The Wray family have always been committed to Saracens and remain so.’
The latest Companies House files show that Wray’s ownership has been transferred to the Edna Wray Grandchildren’s Accumulation & Maintenance Trust. Wray’s children — Lucy, who is on the Saracens board, and Joseph — are the two main beneficiaries of the trust.
The Premiership and European champions were hoping to slash their wage bill to avoid another breach of the cap.
It is thought that Saracens stars will be called into a meeting on Friday to discuss the situation
Lions star Liam Williams has already confirmed his exit, while England lock George Kruis is exploring the option of a move abroad.
Flankers Calum Clark and Michael Rhodes could also be released as a matter of urgency, while prop Juan Figallo could join the exodus.
If Clark, Figallo and Rhodes make swift exits, Saracens could cut an estimated £800,000 from their wage bill in a bid to come down to the £7m ceiling.
Any compensation paid to players, as and when they are released early from contracts, must be included in this season’s salary cap.
Players’ agents are now scrambling to find clubs for worried Saracens players, many of whom could leave the club under relegation clauses in their contracts — should the club be demoted.
Currently Saracens sit on minus-seven points at the foot of the Premiership table, but they were sure to overtake rivals and stay up come the summer. Last night’s bombshell could scupper that quest altogether.
Saracens were contacted for comment.
New CEO Ed Griffiths has said that the Wray family will continue to be committed to Saracens