Saracens’ back-to-back Premiership title successes will have come via unfair means if their punishment for breaching salary cap rules is upheld, according to Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter.
The reigning champions of England and Europe have been docked 35 points and fined £5.36million for exceeding the ceiling for payments to players in each of the past three seasons.
Sarries were hit with the sanction following an investigation by Premiership Rugby prompted by revelations several high-profile players had formed investment or property partnerships with club owner Nigel Wray.
The London club are appealing against the verdict and have denied any wrongdoing, but Baxter – whose Chiefs side have lost to Sarries in the final in each of the past two campaigns – believes if that appeal fails, it will tarnish the last two title wins.
And, while Baxter would “love to” see those Premiership triumphs reassigned to Exeter, he considers that an unlikely outcome.
“If this is upheld, it’s pretty obvious those titles have been won unfairly,” Baxter said in Cardiff at the launch of this season’s Champions Cup, an event at which Sarries had no representatives.
“If you’re asking me would I like to walk into Sandy Park and see three Premiership trophies there, I would love to.
“In reality do I see that happening? No. There are too many other factors that come into play.
5 – @Saracens have won the @premrugby play-offs for the 5th time, more than any other team since the format was introduced in 2002/03 (@WaspsRugby & @LeicesterTigers 4 times each). Champions. pic.twitter.com/O4cERCsuJH
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) June 1, 2019
“I believe the way we played in the final last year would have beaten any other team in the Premiership.
“The whole truth is if Saracens had been operating with a different group of players last season they may not have got to the final, and if a different team had been there they might have outperformed us on the day,” he continued.
“It would be ridiculous for me to say they were givens. How many results could have been different in the course of a season and the top four could have been created differently.
“Every one of the games, semi-finals and finals would have been different. To sit here and say ‘we should have been given the title’ is a little bit like a shortcut when the season is what you do as whole.”