Saracens will launch an appeal after the club were left “shocked and disappointed” by being docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million for breaching salary cap regulations.
The Premiership and European champions were ruled to have failed to disclose payments and exceeded the ceiling for payments to players in each of the last three seasons.
An Independent Panel upheld all charges, which were brought following a nine-month Premiership Rugby investigation.
The investigation was launched after it was revealed high-profile Sarries players had entered into investment or property partnerships with club owner Nigel Wray.
The London club, champions of England in four of the last five seasons, have denied any wrongdoing all along and will challenge the sanctions.
A Sarries statement said: “Saracens Rugby club is shocked and disappointed by these heavy-handed sanctions and will launch an appeal against all the disciplinary panel’s findings.
“The club is pleased the panel acknowledged it did not deliberately attempt to breach the salary cap and steadfastly maintains that player co-investments do not constitute salary under the regulations.
“This view is supported by independent legal and professional experts.
“The club will continue to vigorously defend this position especially as PRL precedent already exists whereby co-investments have not been deemed part of salary in the regulations.
“As previously stated, the club made administrative errors relating to the non-disclosure of some transactions to PRL and for this we apologise. We are pleased to confirm we now have a robust governance framework in place and this will be overseen by an external counsel to ensure the club follows best practice.
“Furthermore, it is the club’s belief that the panel’s narrow interpretation of the regulations is detrimental to player welfare across the league and is damaging the development of elite level rugby in the UK.
“Saracens is proud of its pioneering, innovative approach to player welfare, developing their talents and supporting their entrepreneurial spirit for life beyond rugby.”
Owner Wray added in a separate statement: “This is absolutely devastating for everyone associated with this amazing group of players, staff, partners and fans.
“It has been acknowledged by the Panel that we never deliberately sought to mislead anyone or breach the cap and that’s why it feels like the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet. We will appeal all the findings.”
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