Defending champions Saracens will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.
Sarries, who won the English top flight and the European Champions Cup last season, were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.
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.
However, after talks between the governing body and Saracens in the aftermath of the latter’s initial punishment, it has been decided they will drop down to the Championship for next term.
Recently appointed Saracens chairman Neil Golding said: “I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes.
“I and the rest of the board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward.”
Big news tonight from @premrugby aa Saracens will be relegated at the end of the season.
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) January 18, 2020
Premiership Rugby has 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.
Chief executive Darren Childs said: “Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs.
“At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the salary cap regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season.”
Childs added: “The actions that we have taken – dealing with breaches of the current regulations and reviewing the system for the future – will help us to build a stronger league and uphold the confidence of supporters.”
Six Saracens players started for England in their World Cup final loss to South Africa in November, including captain Owen Farrell, but a star-studded line-up now looks certain to be broken up.
On Sunday, Sarries face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup, where victory will virtually secure progress to the knockout stages.
Farrell is joined in the starting XV by England colleagues Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola, and a run in this season’s tournament is likely to be a last hurrah for this collective.
Even if they win Europe’s top competition for the fourth time in their last five attempts, Saracens’ Championship status will mean they are barred from entering next year.
KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta