It may have been Saracens’ expensively, and what’s been decreed, illegitimately assembled squad that denied his team a fifth European crown last May but Leinster’s Fergus McFadden doesn’t believe that the English side’s financial transgressions are enough to leave as asterisk beside their honours list.
The row over the 35 points and £5.36m fine that the English side have been hit with escalated further on Wednesday after the Premiership champions’ captain Brad Barritt and director of rugby Mark McCall failed to show up for a Champions Cup launch that the holders should have been front and centre at.
The irony of the situation is that the salary cap doesn’t actually apply in European competition but obviously domestic restrictions clearly impact how much of an impact any club can make on the continent. Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast in association with Aldi, the Leinster wing was surprised at the scale of the punishment and believes the effect could go beyond the direct hit on finances and in the table.
“I wouldn’t think that (there’s an asterisk beside their trophies). It’s bizarre to think they could get that much of a fine and that much of a points deduction. It’s an awful lot,” the two-time Champions Cup winner said.
“I would have thought it would be a larger amount of one or the other but you can’t really go any further than 35 points or there’s no point in playing the league. In saying that, Saracens are that strong that they could still make the Champions Cup but they’re not going to win the league and they were favourites to do so.
“It’s going to have implications because there are a few guys coming back because whose confidence was riding high leading to that World Cup final. That didn’t go right and they get hit with this news as well, there could be a bit of unrest in the camp. It’s not great going into the first two weeks of Europe.
“It’s not ideal for Mark McCall, who’s done a fantastic job over there. They bent the rules so need to the sanctioned but it’s not my place to say what should or should not happen.
“It’s a headline at the moment but we don’t know the ins and outs. It could be less than it seems or it could be more.”
While owner Nigel Wray is believed to be preparing an appeal, it is understood that the club will be looking into deregistering players to ensure their offence is not repeated this season.
Luke Fitzgerald, another two-time European winner, who played with McFadden in Leinster’s 2011 triumph, Is in favour of a strong sanction but is also wary of taking away from the club’s on-field achievements in Europe at least.
And the former Ireland international is also unclear exactly how the English club can go about reducing their wage bill with players under contract.
“If you’re breaking the rules and giving yourself an unfair advantage over other teams, particularly in a league where you can get relegated, that doesn’t sit well with me,” Fitzgerald added.
“And it looks like it doesn’t sit well with the powers that be in the Premiership. I like that they came out strong. You shouldn’t be breaking those rules, they’re there to protect all the teams in the competition and to protect the integrity of the competition.
“But In terms of an asterisk beside what McCall has built, the likes of Toulon and lots of other teams have massive massive budgets.
“They haven’t even come close to reproducing the kind of performances and consistency that Saracens have come with even with the same amount of star-studded players in my opinion. So I wouldn’t take anything away from that.
“However, it will have broad implications as I assume the fine will cover a period where they have to keep these players because the contracts don’t just end. You can’t disrupt people’s lives who’ve moved families over to come to Saracens to play their rugby.
“You can’t just rip up the contracts and start again under the salary cap. So I presume there’ll be a period where it won’t have an impact on the squad. But it will certainly have an impact in two or three years because some guys will have to go.”
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