A flurry of exits are expected imminently at Allianz Park in order for Saracens to comply with this season’s £7m cap, which includes two marquee players that are exempt from the limit.
Saracens are understood to have been more than £650,000 over that cap for two of the last three seasons, resulting in the 35-point penalty imposed in November that has dropped them to the bottom of the Premiership table and into a relegation dogfight, with Mark McCall’s side still 18 points off 11th-placed Leicester Tigers. They were also fined a record £5.36m, the largest sanction handed out in any sport for a salary cap breach worldwide.
As a result, new Saracens non-executive chairman Neil Golding and interim chief executive Edward Griffiths – brought in to replace the recently-retired Nigel Wray – have been tasked with getting their house in order, which will lead to a number of first-team squad players leaving between now and the end of the season.
Despite the enforced departures, Saracens have still been linked with new summer signings, the most high-profile of which is current England wing May who is out of contract at Leicester Tigers this season and weighing up his future. If Saracens are able to drag themselves off the foot of the table, the 10-time Premiership champions are currently favourites to be relegated to the Championship.
The Independent understands that although talks took place between May and Saracens, the Barnet-based club will not be making a move for the 29-year-old, who has a formidable international record of 27 tries in 51 appearances for England, and the wing himself admitted last weekend that his future is “still up in the air” as considers signing an extension at Welford Road, moving to another Premiership rival or exploring lucrative opportunities abroad in France and Japan with what could be his final big-money contract.
“It’s never nice to leave a club,” May said following Leicester’s victory over Gloucester, the club who he left in controversial circumstances to join the Tigers in 2017. “I have done it before. It’s not a nice thing to do, but if I feel I need to do that I would.
“I don’t want to talk about contracts, but it’s still up in the air for me.
“Are you offered a good contract? Are you even offered a contract? Where’s best for your development? Where’s best for your happiness? It’s the same as any job.”
The decision not to move for May falls into line with what Golding announced upon his appointment as chairman on Thursday, with the club looking to restore the trust from the 12 other clubs who own Premiership Rugby Limited that have been left incensed by the salary cap scandal. He said: “I recognise that I am joining the club at a time of significant change. We, as a board, are strongly committed to introducing new robust processes and working together with other PRL stakeholders in the best interests of Saracens and English rugby.”
The club are also confident that current academy products Rotimi Segun, Alistair Crossdale, Elliot Obatoyinbo and Matt Gallagher will prove a more efficient option for the seasons ahead, having all seen first-team rugby this season.
The potential summer arrival of May would have likely further antagonised clubs who already feel like they have had their noses rubbed in the fact that Saracens were operating above the salary cap, following the signing of England star Elliot Daly of Wasps last year and the re-signing of Australian lock Will Skelton on top of the big-money acquisition of Wales full-back Liam Williams.
With Griffiths confirming that players will need to leave swiftly in order for Saracens to fall under this season’s cap – which is audited at the end of the season – Williams is set to be the first out of the door. The British and Irish Lions back has already agreed to return to Scarlets at the end of the season for family reasons, and having not played a minute for the Saracens this campaign, the club will not have to include his £230,000 salary so long as he doesn’t make an appearance, meaning they will allow him to leave sooner rather than later for the good of his career. Flanker Michael Rhodes and prop Juan Figallo are in a similar position having not played due to injury, while flanker Calum Clark is also set to leave along with wing Alex Lewington at the end of the season.
Furthermore, long-serving captain Brad Barritt is out of contract at the end of the campaign and it is by no means a given that he will sign a new deal. The 26-cap England international joined Saracens in 2008 and had guided them through their most successful period in the club’s history, though he has put his future on the backburner in order to focus on their attempt to stay in the Premiership this season.
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