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EXCLUSIVE: Salary cap cheats will be hammered to protect league’s integrity

Premiership LaunchBy NEALE HARVEY

Two Premiership clubs are set to be fined and deducted points for the 2015-16 campaign as top-flight rugby bosses prepare to clampdown on salary cap cheats.

The Rugby Paper understands investigations into salary cap abuse are nearing a conclusion and two clubs – one in London, the other a West Country side – are to be hit with sanctions aimed to protect the league’s integrity.

Premiership Rugby’s £5.5m salary cap has been the subject of fierce debate, with some clubs calling for it to be scrapped while others value the level playing field it is intended to provide, but one league insider described the two clubs as, “bang to rights”.

Despite threats by clubs under suspicion to challenge the legality of the cap under European Law, attempts to suppress the investigation have proved futile, with rival clubs insisting any side found guilty must be brought to book in line with regulations.

Sanctions of between £3 and £10 for every pound a club is found over the cap can be applied, along with a scale of points deductions up to a maximum of 40. It is thought a settlement could be reached if the two clubs involved accept their punishments.

It is believed the alleged breaches do not to relate to last season.

A senior top-flight insider told The Rugby Paper: “Clubs are bang to rights, we all know it, and something has to happen because how can you look supporters, sponsors, coaches, players and staff in the eye if you know the game is tainted in this way?

“It has to be done before the start of the season and it will be a combination of cash and points for this season. It has to have teeth otherwise we’re in trouble.

“What integrity will we have if we can’t say our championship is clean? There’ll be compromise but it’ll be a big step forward because there’s a lot of anger.”

Meanwhile, TRP understands Premiership Rugby chairman Quentin Smith has survived a recent coup attempt led be a cabal of senior clubs who had sought his removal from the board in a bid to gain greater control of league affairs.

It is believed the name of former Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths was put forward as a potential replacement, but that failed to find favour with a majority of clubs voting to retain Smith, who they consider to be a safe pair of hands.

A source revealed: “Some of them definitely wanted Quentin out and (chief executive) Mark McCafferty is probably under pressure as well.

“There’s been talk of a ‘commissioner’ role to replace the CEO, as they have in NFL, but it’s really about individuals who want to grab power.”

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