Premiership Rugby plans to investigate the “unauthorised and reckless leak” of an unredacted disciplinary report into Saracens, which named several players who were part of ventures set up with the club’s owner Nigel Wray that breached salary cap rules.
A Sky News report on Wednesday night revealed details of the 103-page report by Lord Dyson which found that Wray had put £1.3m towards companies owned by Maro Itoje, Billy and Mako Vunipola and Chris Ashton, in a way that constituted a breach of Premiership Rugby’s £7m salary cap rules.
However, Premiership Rugby is furious that the report, which it finally published in a redacted form on Thursday morning, has brought the names of players involved into the public domain.
In a statement it stressed that no blame was attached to players for the salary cap breaches committed by Saracens. “Premiership Rugby condemns the unauthorised and reckless leak of the unredacted report that has compromised the due confidentiality of personal information,” it added.
The Guardian also understands that the Rugby Players Association is unhappy that the players names are now public.
Among numerous breaches of the salary cap, Dyson also found that Saracens paid £1.6m for a 30% stake in Itoje’s image rights company, based on a valuation by PwC. However Premiership Rugby said the shares were only worth £800,000 and that Saracens overpaid for Itoje’s image rights so the club could come in under the salary cap by paying him less.
Itoje was also paid a lump sum for three years of £30,000, £30,000 and £35,000 by a company involving the chairman’s daughter, Lucy Wray, that did all the hospitality at Allianz Park.
The report notes there was no evidence Itoje had attended any hospitality events and was not paid on a per-event basis, meaning it was a salary benefit and not a commercial arrangement.
The report, which led to Saracens being docked 35 points and fined £5.3m when it was completed in November, also criticises Saracens for failing to co-operate properly with Andrew Rogers, the Premierships head of governance and regulation, calling it “egregious”.
“In sporting parlance, Saracens has been issued with a clear ‘yellow card’ in 2015 and the onus was then plainly on it to ensure that it stayed firmly within the regulations, the report added. “It took risks and is now paying the price for doing so.”
Dyson found that Saracens breached the salary cap in three consecutive seasons – with more than £1.1m of overspend in the 2016-17 season, just over £98,000 in 2017-18 and £906,000 in 2018-19.
Rogers, meanwhile, is quoted in the report as saying Saracens was “reckless in its approach to the salary cap and the related rules and has frequently crossed the line into breach”.
“At best, the club appears to accept the risk of breaching it,” he said. “This has been compounded by a reluctance to cooperate and a failure to communicate information.”
In response to the report’s publication, Wray issued a lengthy statement in which he apologised for “the heartache that I have caused … due to my ill-considered approach to matters relating to salary cap compliance. My intention with co-investments was always to support players beyond their playing careers.”
The statement broke down in great detail Saracens’ view of the assessments made in the report with Wray adding, “I recognise that the actions of the Club were described by the panel as ‘reckless’ primarily due to my failure to consult with PRL’s salary cap manager prior to entering into any agreements and then disclosing the transactions to him. I take full responsibility for this. We should have been far better”.