European champions Saracens have confirmed they must “restructure” to comply with salary-cap rules, and players are close to learning if the squad needs immediate trimming.
The London club were docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million in November for breaching regulations on their salary outgoings.
Their squad is stacked with world-class talent, with England captain Owen Farrell one of a host of well-paid internationals, and speculation has centred on whether star players will be sacrificed to ensure the club are compliant.
Interim chief executive Ed Griffiths, who returned to Sarries this month after leaving in 2015 following a seven-year stint, confirmed the club are close to reaching a final decision on what steps are required.
“We’re in a scoping exercise at the moment to identify exactly what needs to be done,” Griffiths said.
“Clearly the planning was done on the basis that certain transactions would not be included in the salary cap.
“The [independent disciplinary] panel’s findings have found otherwise, so it’s natural that in response to that panel finding we should have to restructure our squad to a certain extent.
“The exact scope of what needs to happen obviously will be conveyed to the players directly first, but we are in the final stages of a scoping exercise to work out what exactly needs to be done.”
News is @Saracens won’t review the £5.36 million fine & 35 point deduction, if true then they are clearly guilty as charged & the next question will be what about this season as there’s no way they can be under the @premrugby salary cap if they haven’t been previously!
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) November 16, 2019
Saracens, whose chairman Nigel Wray retired last week, have won three of the last four European Champions Cup titles, and four of the last five domestic Premierships.
Griffiths pointed to their successes and Saracens’ apology for the breach, saying he hoped the club could “move beyond this situation and return to normality”.
Speaking on Sky Sports News, Griffiths said: “Clearly people are aware there is a situation that needs to be addressed and there is a level of uncertainty, and when I spoke to the players last week I said to them that as soon as possible we wanted to bring certainty, clarity and confidence back to their lives.
“But there’s no magic wand and I told them it wouldn’t be possible to do that in hours, maybe days, possibly weeks but certainly not months either.
“We need to move forward quickly, but we also need to recognise that potentially we’re dealing with people, and people [with] families and mortgages. We need to move forward with speed but we’ll also move need to forward with care and that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Saracens remain at the foot of the Premiership table after the swingeing punishment, but they are confident of getting out of trouble after starting the season with six wins from eight games – the same record as front-runners Exeter and Northampton have achieved.
Griffiths related Saracens’ position to Arsenal’s struggles in football’s Premier League, with the Gunners toiling in mid-table.
He said: “I’m no more contemplating relegation than [Arsenal’s new manager] Mikel Arteta is contemplating relegation. We’re looking from a rugby side at what we can achieve rather than fearing what we might achieve.”