Saracens have promised to “come back stronger” after the European champions were relegated in disgrace from the Premiership.
The club who won English top flight and European Champions Cup top honours last season will spend next term in the second-tier Championship, after years of salary cap breaches finally caught up with them.
Saracens were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for breaches over each of the past three seasons.
And on Saturday, a second swingeing punishment was announced when Premiership Rugby (PRL), the league’s governing body, announced Saracens would be automatically demoted at the end of the current campaign.
The star-studded Saracens squad looks destined to break up, given the unappealing prospect of at least a year in the Championship and no European rugby.
Years of success have come at a high price, and now Saracens have no option but to swallow a bitter pill.
Saracens said in a statement on Sunday: “The board of Saracens wishes to unreservedly apologise for the mistakes made in relation to the salary cap regulations. Our goal is to rebuild confidence and trust.”
Former England fly-half Andy Goode claimed on Twitter that the Premiership Rugby ruling against Saracens meant “justice has been served and now we know they have cheated beyond belief”.
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) January 18, 2020
The club’s name will be blackened for many, and their successes – including three Champions Cup wins in the last four years – will be widely considered as tarnished.
The Saracens statement continued: “Following open and frank discussions with PRL, we have accepted the unprecedented measure of automatic relegation from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-2020 season.
“We understand this decision will be difficult for the Saracens family to accept. The board must embody the values of the club, learn from its mistakes so the club can come back stronger.
“It is in the wider interests of the Premiership and English rugby to take this decisive step, to ensure everybody is able once again to focus on the game of rugby, which we all love.
“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.”
The London club are bottom of the Premiership table on minus seven points but have the joint-best record in the division with six wins in eight matches this term.
Six Saracens players started for England in their World Cup final loss to South Africa in November, including national team captain Owen Farrell.
He and international colleagues Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola may be among those considering their future with the club.
Premiership Rugby recently launched an independent review into the salary cap as a result of the Saracens saga, which will be led by former Treasury minister Lord Myners.
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