Much of Saracens success has been tarnished by the salary-cap scandal
A year after Saracens brought disgrace on the game with their salary-cap transgressions, Premiership Rugby has introduced swingeing sanctions, including the stripping of titles, immediate relegation, return of prize monies and the forensic probing of players’ tax returns, to ensure that there is no repeat.
Lord Myners’ commissioned report into the scandal that saw England’s champion club fined £5.36 million, and effectively relegated to the Championship after bring docked a total of 105 points, made 52 recommendations, all of which have been written into regulations announced on the eve of the Gallagher Premiership season.
The regulations represent a root-and-branch overhaul, a cleaning out of the stables that were soiled by the Saracens affair. They have been hailed by Darren Childs, the Premiership Rugby chief executive, as “the best salary-cap regulations in the world”.
There is to be greater transparency and accountability across the board, with any issues made public immediately and a range of penalties that includes a 50-point deduction as an entry point for any offence. All club officials, player agents and associates will be liable to scrutiny in any investigation, which can be initiated at any time under the umbrella title of a “special audit”.
The Rugby Players Association has been consulted, although players will only learn “imminently” of the new powers of investigation. Any arrangement involving sponsor endorsement as a means of salary will have to be approved. Any non co-operation will invoke a sanctions procedure. The champion club will be obliged to submit to an “extended audit” involving a review of emails and text messages.
Andrew Rogers, the Premiership Rugby salary cap manager, was at the forefront of finalising the arrangements.
“The four main themes are transparency reporting, investigatory powers, sanctioning and the expanded scope that captures more participants,” Rogers said. “If a charge is brought against a club or participant, that would immediately become public. There is now a greater obligation on all participants to consult with me and there is also a greater list of areas that need pre-approval from me; whether it is a player sponsorship deal or testimonial.
“There is a real emphasis on transparency of reporting and open dialogue. There are sanctions in place for non co-operation. The annual audit process has now been given greater powers. There will be greater scrutiny. We will be able to look at a sample of player tax returns and interview club officials. Each year the champion club will be given an extended audit.
“This is a far more forensic audit including reviewing of emails of club officials, text messages, WhatsApp messages of club officials and reviewing at least 50 per cent of all players’ tax returns, bank statements plus any further areas I feel are necessary to look into. That is a real enhancement. The ability to look at player tax returns is a massive piece.
“We have always understood that as a regulatory body there are certain limitations and people may choose to step outside the sporting regulatory framework with a little less concern than they would if they were stepping outside of the law. Tax returns are key in making sure players complete those properly and give us extra enhanced oversight of what is going on in the salary cap.”