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Saracens to drop appeal against 35-point penalty?

Saracens to drop appeal against 35-point penalty?
© Reuters
No appeal likely after Gallagher Premiership club were given a £5.4million fine and 35-point penalty.

Saracens are set to drop their planned appeal against a £5.4million fine and a 35-point penalty for a breach of the salary cap, the PA news agency understands.

The back-to-back Premiership champions and reigning European champions had initially announced their intention to appeal against what they deemed to be “heavy-handed” punishments that were further described by club chairman Nigel Wray as “absolutely devastating”.

But ahead of Monday’s deadline to officially serve notice of appeal, Saracens are now poised to confirm they will not be doing so.

Saracens suffered defeat in the opening match of their Heineken Champions Cup title defence on Sunday, going down 30-10 to Racing 92 at the Paris La Defense Arena.

Addressing the reports that the club will not lodge an appeal, director of rugby Mark McCall told BT Sport before the match: “Other people in the club are going to make that decision. As far as I know the deadline is tomorrow.

“My job is very clear and that’s to get on with the rugby and get the very best out of this group.

“This group have done so well for us over the last four weeks and we’re really excited to see how they go again today.”

Pressed on whether he was being consulted on the matter, McCall stressed: “It’s not my decision. It’s a decision for other people in the club.”

— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) November 17, 2019

While an appeals process was in place, the sanctions were initially suspended.

The points penalty, however, will come into immediate effect on Monday, once the club has confirmed its decision.

It means Saracens, currently third in the standings on 13 points, a point behind leaders Bristol, will sit on -22 points, 26 adrift of bottom club Leicester.

With regard to the fine, which totals exactly £5,360,272.31, it is understood the club will be given a short period of time to make payment.

Gallagher Premiership Rugby Preview Package
Mark McCall is Saracens’ director of rugby (Richard Sellers/PA)

An independent panel, led by barrister Lord Dyson, found the club had failed to disclose payments to players in each of the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, and had also exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players.

No details have been revealed on the size of the undisclosed payments or the recipients but Premiership Rugby’s investigations were thought to have centred around Wray’s involvements in companies such as VunProp Ltd (Mako and Billy Vunipola), Faz Investments Ltd (Owen Farrell), Wiggy9 Ltd (Richard Wigglesworth) and MN Property Solutions Ltd (Maro Itoje).

The panel was established after a nine-month Premiership Rugby investigation led to charges being brought in June. The panel upheld all the charges.

Shortly after the punishments were announced, Wray reiterated his belief the club had not broken the salary cap by entering into co-investment deals with players. He also stated players would not have to be sold.

If that is the case then those players will form the focus of attention as they will face a fight for survival in a bid to avoid relegation rather than chasing a third domestic league title under McCall.

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