In today's Telegraph:
Premiership clubs have supported Exeter Chiefs chairman Tony Rowe’s incendiary attack on Nigel Wray and have indicated that the Saracens owner would not be welcome at their grounds.
Despite Saracens accepting a 35-point deduction and £5.3 million fine for their breach of Premiership Rugby’s salary cap, the hostility towards them shows no signs of abating. There is particular anger that Saracens have never apologised to other clubs for their offences and that they have been able to maintain a squad containing seven British and Irish Test Lions – more than the rest of the Premiership put together.
As chairman of the club who have lost to Saracens in the past two Premiership finals, Rowe has been the most outspoken of their critics and has not held back from making personal attacks on Wray. “[Wray] is a cheater,” Rowe told The Times. “I believe he brought the sport into disrepute and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.”
That view drew a sympathetic response among other Premiership chairmen and chief executives, who have indicated that Wray would be best advised to avoid away games.
“Rugby is supposed to be based on intense competition on the field and then friendship off it,” a high-level source said. “Given what Saracens have done, which is nothing less than sustained cheating, I would find that hard to overlook and forgive them. I think most clubs feel the same way. What is still an issue is that Saracens have shown no contrition. They are still pushing this line that what they did was nothing more than an accounting error. That is what sticks in the throat.”
Rowe has threatened to sue Saracens, although he has not yet met with lawyers to discuss this. Earlier this month, Rowe told Telegraph Sport that Saracens’ salary cap breaches had directly affected their revenue. “Of course it impacts our commercial earnings,” he said. “We could have been three-times English champions, and that would do so much for us. If you can’t earn an extra £2.5 million a year from your commercial rights because you are European and English champions, then your commercial department is not doing very well.”
However, successfully prosecuting a legal case would be far from straightforward. As legal rugby expert Ben Cisneros wrote for Telegraph Sport this month, if Exeter were to sue Saracens for breach of contract, they would have to prove that they suffered a loss and that Saracens’ salary cap breach caused that loss. He concluded the chances of Exeter or another club winning such a case were “slim”. Other lawyers, however, believe that other Premiership clubs may try to force an out-of-court settlement, as Liverpool paid to Manchester City over the allegations of spying.