Saracens Q&A: What happens to the relegated club?
"In many ways this is the end of that era that dates back to the start of 2009," said Mark McCall
By James Cole
Last Updated: 20/01/20 8:40am
Premiership Rugby has confirmed Saracens will be relegated to the Championship at the end of the season.
Winners of four league titles in the last five years, Saracens will drop into the Championship following their salary cap breaches.
They faced the impossible task of reducing their wage bill by up to £2m to comply with salary cap regulations for the current season.
The Saracens board have officially accepted the decision, issuing a statement which said: "We hope that we can now start to move forward, begin to restore confidence and over time, rebuild trust with PRL, its stakeholders and the wider rugby community."
Director of rugby Mark McCall said: "In many ways this is the end of that era that dates back to the start of 2009. We have got some time to plan for a new era, a new journey, and that is the optimistic way of looking at it."
The situation has created several dilemmas for the club and its players. Sky Sports News reporter James Cole takes a look at the key questions for Saracens...
Why have Saracens been relegated?
In November, Saracens were docked 35 points and fined £5.4m for breaking Premiership Rugby's £7m salary cap for the past three seasons.
However, they still remain over budget for this season (reportedly up to £2m) - and therefore face another 35-point penalty.
At Tuesday's Premiership board meeting, Saracens were reportedly given the option of opening their accounts and handing back their trophies - or face relegation.
They appear to have chosen the latter. The Premiership title holders' crashing fall from grace was confirmed by Premiership Rugby on Saturday.
They will join English rugby's second tier next season alongside clubs like Ampthill, Jersey and Hartpury.
Why are Saracens still over budget?
Saracens have been unable to offload any players. Their chief executive Ed Griffiths contacted other Premiership clubs but many were unable to help given how close they are to the cap themselves.
Also, seven months of salaries have already been paid - and any compensation for cancelling contracts would also fall within the salary cap. The only remaining option would be for players to take an immediate cut in salary.
What will happen to their England players?
There's nothing preventing Eddie Jones from picking Saracens players next season if they're playing in the Championship. Eight Saracens featured for England in last year's Rugby World Cup final. However, the issue is whether those players would be fit and conditioned for Test rugby.
Perhaps they'd be better rested as a result. Furthermore there is the issue of the Lions Tour in 2021. Would Warren Gatland select players to tour South Africa after a season playing second-tier rugby? What seems more likely is that Saracens' England internationals would be loaned to other Premiership clubs for a season - or leave permanently.
Does the Championship have a salary cap?
The Premiership salary cap dictates that promoted clubs must declare their accounts. This is to prevent clubs from 'front-loading' contracts for a single season in the Championship in order to get promoted.
Saracens therefore will still need to cut their wage bill after relegation.
If Saracens win the Champions Cup, would they be able to play in Europe next season?
No. Not unless the regulations were changed for what would be an unprecedented situation. Only teams from the Premiership, the Top 14 and the Pro 14 are eligible for the Champions Cup. Therefore if Saracens were to win it this season and be relegated, they would not be able to defend their title.