Saracens' trophies are tainted by salary cap breach, says Rob Baxter
Chris Robshaw: "Call it what you want. It is cheating"
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 06/11/19 8:11pm
Exeter boss Rob Baxter says Saracens' recent trophies have been "tainted" by their salary cap breach.
Speaking at the launch of the Champions Cup, which Saracens chose not to attend, Baxter said it would be "impossible" to deny that the Premiership and European champions were aided by the salary cap breach which saw them docked 35 points and fined £5.3m.
However, even though his Exeter side lost three of the last four Premiership finals against the north London club, Baxter said there are too many factors to consider before saying Saracens cost the Chiefs silverware.
"I wouldn't say I feel cheated because if you dial all this back to say Saracens would have been a different team, well they played 10 other clubs other than us through those seasons as well," Baxter told Sky Sports.
"The reality is there's no way for me to say, or any other person to say, how any of those seasons would have gone - when we lost to Saracens in the final - if Saracens had been solely working within the salary cap.
"They may well have got to the final themselves and won, other teams may have got to finals and they may have beaten us on the day. So I'm not going to stand here and say I feel cheated because it was Saracens.
"But one thing you can say is 'are those trophy wins for Saracens tainted by this?' - well of course they are, it's impossible to say any different.
"There's certainly a large element of gain that they've got there. I'm not sitting here and making a personal perspective of it, that's how it would have to be.
This competition is about the clubs that decide they want to work within certain boundaries and certain rules, and if we decide that as a group then we should all abide by it.
"If we spent several million pounds more on our squad we'd have an advantage over other people.
"But that's different to saying 'would we have won those games on the day?' because a season is too big a picture for me to say that."
'Is there really a place for Saracens in the Premiership?'
Exeter chief executive Tony Rowe suggested Saracens should be relegated from the Premiership rather than just being docked 35 points. Baxter said the strength of Rowe's comments were rooted in Saracens' decision to appeal their sanction rather than accept it.
"It's probably as much to do with Saracens' immediate reaction to the news that's come out in that the reaction seems to be 'We should be ok because the payments or inducements or investments - whatever it was - that we made outside the salary cap aren't captured by the wording of the cap'," added Baxter.
"In effect, Saracens are kind of going 'as long as we can find a way to make payments outside the salary cap we will carry on doing it and that will be fine'.
"That's probably his reason for wording things so strongly. If that's what you're prepared to do, is there really a place for you in the Premiership?
"My view has got to be: what are Saracens going to do about it?
"If you abide by [the salary cap] and agree with it, then you should be part of the Premiership. This competition is about the clubs that decide they want to work within certain boundaries and certain rules, and if we decide that as a group then we should all abide by it."
Robshaw: Call it what you want - it is cheating
Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw said there was no question Saracens were "cheating", and added other sports would have a bleak view of rugby as a result.
"As a sport we often look down our nose at other sports and say our grass is greener," Robshaw said. "We're often easy to criticise football and athletics about cheating - now we're exactly the same.
"The sport's in a dark place, this sport's going to be in a tough place now. As you see our most successful team in the last three years or longer has been known to be cheating when we're trying to compete on a level playing field.
"Our grass is no longer greener.
"It is tough to take. They've won three Premierships and two European cups in that time, and now we know why.
"Call it what you want. It is cheating."