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Premiership Rugby finally break cover over Saracens farrago

Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs has conceded that Saracens’ relegation to the Championship was the ‘appropriate thing to do’ after breaching the salary cap again.

Following the announcement on Saturday, Childs addressed the decision to send the reigning Premiership champions down at the end of the season as calls grow for more transparency.

A nine-month investigation carried out by PRL found Saracens had breached the salary cap between 2016 and 2019, with a panel led by Lord Dyson imposing a 35-point deduction and £5.36m fine in November.

Saracens have struggled to comply with the £7m limit for the current season, through large-scale changes at board level which has seen Nigel Wray retire as chairman, with the club almost certain to fail a mid-season audit.

Childs, speaking for the first time since the relegation announcement, revealed Saracens were not willing to cooperate with the audit later in January.

“We’re in new territory and these are exceptional circumstances,” said Childs.

“There was no precedent for this in our history so we had to do what we thought was right for the league and the game.

“After weeks of intensive dialogue they were unable to provide the necessary conformation of their compliance for the current season. In addition, they would not cooperate with the proposal for a mid-season audit.”

Furthermore, Childs defended the PRL’s lack of disclosure on how Saracens skirted around the salary cap for three seasons and the extent to which they peaked past the cap limit.

For PRL to release such details, Childs explained they would require consent from Saracens to make the findings of their investigation public, as urged by Lord Dyson in recent weeks.

“The nuance here is that PRL have to set the rules and enforce the rules and not break the rules. The regulations say we can’t publish Dyson’s full decision,” he said.

“It would take agreement with Saracens, which they’ve withheld, for us to publish. We can’t publish it without their approval.

“If Saracens change their mind about publishing that full report I’m very minded to review my decision about publishing.

“Lord Dyson wonders why we don’t publish it, but he knows it’s impossible for us to do so under the current regulations.

“PRL has absolutely nothing to hide. Lord Dyson and the panel commended PRL throughout the report. They commend the salary cap regulations and the way we administrate them.”

Childs has been thrown into the middle of the biggest controversy to hit English club rugby, having succeeded Mark McCafferty as PRL chief executive last June.

And the former Television chief says his foremost priority is to preserve the integrity of the league.

“As the season went on and the rumours circulated for compliance, our resolve strengthened for action to be taken. Relegation was the appropriate thing to do.

“Relegation was the only option left to restore trust and maintain the league’s integrity, which is absolutely critical.

“You can’t have fans turning up to a game unsure of whether a squad is compliant or not.

“This is the result of three years of salary cap breaches and uncertainty over compliance for this year. We needed to take quick and decisive action.”

The pending relegation of Saracens diminishes any prospect of a repeat of last season’s dramatic scrap at the bottom of the standings, where Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons provided ample entertainment to the battle between Saracens and Exeter Chiefs at the top of the table.

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