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Saracens ready to fight extended top-flight exile
Discussion started by Faithful_City , 05 October, 2020 09:43
Saracens ready to fight extended top-flight exile
Faithful_City 05 October, 2020 09:43

• Club planning challenge if Championship postponed
• No start date for second tier with fans locked out

Saracens will take “pre-emptive action” to ensure they are not stuck in limbo if the 2020-21 Championship season is postponed.

The English and European champions will play their final Premiership match against Bath today before they are relegated to the second tier as punishment for their salary-cap breaches.

However, there is still no start date for the Championship season with many clubs saying it would be impossible to play the campaign if crowds were still not permitted in stadiums.

With the Rugby Football Union slashing its central funding to the Championship, clubs are almost entirely reliant on match-day income. Nottingham chairman Alistair Bow says that he represents most clubs in saying it would be “financial suicide” to start the season without crowds.

That could theoretically leave Saracens trapped in the second tier if they were unable to win promotion back to the Premiership. However, Saracens board member Vic Luck told The Sunday Telegraph that the club had drawn up contingency plans, which could involve regulatory and legal challenges, to avoid being exiled from the top flight for another year.

“It has come up in our board meetings,” Luck said. “There are a few things around our scenarios where we will have pre-emptive action being taken. I can’t divulge the exact details but we would be ahead of the game.”

Luck, who spent 25 years as a chartered accountant with PwC, was appointed to the Saracens board as chief financial officer in August and has a direct responsibility for managing the salary cap. Since the start of the year, Saracens have moved on 15 internationals, whether permanently or on loan, to fit under the cap but have kept their “crown jewels”, such as Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell.

Premiership Rugby salary cap manager Andrew Rogers visited the club last week to inspect the books and Luck confirmed Saracens were operating well below the £7 million cap ceiling. “At working level, our general manager Phil Morrow has an excellent relationship with Andrew,” Luck said. “I think he is quite happy with everything. We are pretty determined that there is plenty of leeway between our limit and our salaries.”

While Saracens had budgeted for their year in the Championship, like every other club they have been severely affected by the lack of crowds. Match-day income accounts for 46 per cent of their total revenue, a proportion that increases significantly in the Championship with a fraction of the television and central funding.

Leading players have already agreed to take pay cuts and defer their wages above £75,000, but Luck admits Saracens will be reliant upon the continued financial support of Nigel Wray, who had formally cut many of his ties with the club after the salary-cap scandal.

“Nigel has a lot of patience and understands the devastating impact,” Luck said. “He is happy to carry on supporting [Saracens] as long as he can so he is extending his generosity. He is driven by the need to make a positive impact on society through sport and the last thing that he would want would be to make a negative impact by not continuing to support Saracens. I also would not underplay the effect of the players and staff taking the salary cut and the wages deferral.”

Even with Wray’s backing, Saracens will require financial support from the Government’s bail-out fund for sports if crowds continue to be locked out of stadiums. Once they ride out this storm, Luck firmly believes Saracens can return to the top of the English game as well as achieve financial sustainability – and is looking to Italy for inspiration.

“The other sport that struck me as being parallel to our situation was Juventus [after the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal in 2006],” Luck said. “They took a tumble into Serie B, took a while to come back but they moved to being a club that sustained financial success in concert with success on the pitch.

They have just won their ninth Serie A on the bounce. That wouldn’t be bad for us.”

It will be very interesting if next season is disrupted. I would guess several clubs will be looking to their legal teams to ensure they stay in the Premiership.


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