Nigel Wray has admitted the dealings conducted with players and not declared as part of Saracens salary structure was ‘ill-considered’ on his part.
Wray’s involvement with Saracens spanned 25 years until his resignation as chairman earlier this month, in light of the club’s breach of the Premiership’s salary cap regulations over three seasons.
The Dyson report, published by Premiership Rugby on Thursday, but leaked 12 hours earlier to Sky News details how Saracens failed to declare business ventures with players tied to property investment, hospitality contracts and image rights.
Through these modes Saracens breached the Premiership’s salary cap by £1.13m in 2016-17; £98,250 in 2017-18; and by £906,505 in their domestic-European double campaign last season.
A large overspend which Wray conceded he takes full responsibility for.
“I am really sorry for the heartache that I have caused you due to my ill-considered approach to matters relating to salary cap compliance,” Wray, who accumulated his £300m wealth through property and food, said in the statement.
“My intention with co-investments was always to support players beyond their playing careers.”
“I recognise that the actions of the club were described by the panel as ‘reckless’ primarily due to my failure to consult with PRL’s salary cap manager prior to entering into any agreements and then disclosing the transactions to him. I take full responsibility for this. We should have been far better.
“Equally important is the panel’s determination that neither the club nor myself deliberately attempted to breach the cap.”
Although the Premiership’s version of the Dyson report was redacted in some places, Sky News named England stars Maro Itoje, Billy and Mako Vunipola, Richard Wigglesworth and former wing Chris Ashton as players who had been paid sums which should have fallen within Saracens declared salaries to the Premiership’s salary cap manager.
Wray specifically addressed this, saying: “In 2017, I entered into property joint ventures with four players.
“All these transactions are long-term investments that run far beyond the length of a player’s contract and to date no personal financial value has been transferred.
“I should have declared these transactions to the salary cap manager prior to signing off the agreements. I mistakenly assumed that as I had entered into personal property agreements with players previously that had been signed off by the salary cap manager, a precedent had already been set.”
The announcement last weekend that Saracens had accepted relegation to the Championship at the end of the season bears no relation to what was decided in November when the Dyson judgement was enforced.
However, it was made clear by new Saracens chief executive Ed Griffiths that the club were forecast to breach the cap again in reality.
Rather than comply with a mid-season audit and, to some extent, reviled by rival Premiership clubs for the success achieved while over the cap limit, Saracens accepted the drop rather than new penalties under salary cap regulations.
The three-time champions of Europe will head into 2020-21 season with the future of their squad uncertain, as internationals vie to earn a place on the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa that summer.
The futures of England stars Itoje, Owen Farrell, Billy and Mako Vunipola will reveal themselves in time. But for now, Wray reiterated his apologies beyond Saracens and to the sport itself.
“I appreciate there is a lot to digest but felt you were owed a full explanation. Again, I am sorry that this has caused so much upset to you and our sport.
“As you know, the club has already started to implement new processes to ensure nothing like this happens again.
“Despite recent events Saracens is a family which has always brought me and my family so much joy.
“The team’s incredible form and the club’s togetherness in recent weeks shows me the culture we have built is strong.”
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