Liam Williams’ agreed departure from Saracens to the Scarlets will happen sooner than expected, as the Premiership club wrestles with its salary cap for the current season.
New fears have been stoked at the club following the hint by chief executive Ed Griffiths that Saracens were currently on course to surpass the £7m salary cap limit.
Less than a week on from the retirement of long-standing chairman Nigel Wray, Griffiths said he was seeking changes urgently as Saracens attempt to overcome the toll of being handed a £5.36m fine and 35-point deduction for breaching the salary cap for the previous three seasons.
“We need to address the perception we are not operating on a level playing field in the coming days,” Griffiths told RugbyPass.
He added: “You either reduce your head count by letting people go or alternatively you reduce the salaries of those already there. This will clearly cause instability and uncertainty within the squad and it is in everyone’s interest that this is sorted as soon as possible.”
Wales star Liam Williams has already had his move to the Scarlets made public, but his arrival at Parc y Scarlets could come sooner than at the end of the season.
The Daily Mail is reporting that players in the final year of their contracts are at the risk of wage bill cuts.
Other personnel who could form an exodus out of the reigning Premiership and European champions include flankers Calum Clark and Michael Rhodes, as well as Argentina prop Juan Figallo.
Saracens are forecast to save a little over £1m should the trio join Williams in leaving, while the club’s contingent of England internationals – Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola – are expected to remain at the club.
Coaching mastermind Mark McCall suggested the situation wouldn’t mean players would be forced out.
“If anything has to happen, it will be players who will be coming towards the end of their careers in all probability — or their contract ends in four months,” the Saracens director of rugby said on Tuesday.
TRP’s Neil Fissler reported on Sunday that the team’s England stars were called to a meeting with Griffiths on Monday where a discussion was held over what would happen in the event Saracens are relegated to the Championship.
Despite winning six of their eight Premiership games, Brad Barritt and company remain negative in the points column on minus-seven, 18 points behind Leicester Tigers in 11th.
The new reality facing Saracens has come from Griffiths’ admission that there was aware he was ‘dealing with people’s lives, livelihoods and reputations’.
This comes in stark contrast to Wray’s statement last November which confirmed Saracens would not be appealing the fine and point deduction for the salary cap breach, the finer details of which remain undisclosed by Premiership Rugby.
“In addition, we can confirm that we are complying strictly with the salary cap regulations in the current season and will continue to work transparently with Premiership Rugby in this regard,” Wray said on November 18, 2019.
In the same statement, Wray addressed whether players would have to be moved on in order to comply with the salary cap for the current season.
“No. The club allocates a set budget for player remuneration which the CEO and coaching staff take full responsibility for. This budget falls within the salary cap and has no connection whatsoever to third party co-investments.”
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