End of an era for Saracens as Wray steps down in wake of salary cap scandal


London (AFP)

Nigel Wray is to stand down as chairman of Premiership and European champions Saracens with immediate effect bringing the curtain down on a period of unprecedented success on the pitch but tarnished by their breaching of the salary cap.

Wray will still finance the club he has transformed since first investing in it in 1995 but in a statement issued by Saracens he said it was time for a younger person to take over as chairman.

"As we enter a new year, a new decade, it is time for the club to make a fresh start," Wray said.

"I am not getting any younger and feel this is the right moment for me to stand down as chairman and just enjoy being a fan of this incredible rugby club."

Since Wray took over as chairman, Saracens have won five Premiership titles and three European Cups. His financial input has also allowed them to attract some of the finest players in the world and that seems unlikely to change.

"I will always be committed to the wonderful Saracens family.

"The Wray family will continue to provide the required financial support to the club, and I will remain actively engaged in the work of the Saracens Sport Foundation and Saracens High School, as part of the club's ongoing commitment to our community in north London."

- Salary cap scandal -

Notable for its absence from the statement was any mention of the Premiership salary cap scandal which blew up in November when Saracens were hit with a 35-point penalty and £5 million ($6.5 million) fine for breaching it over three seasons.

Wray had at first vigorously defended the club after a nine-month investigation by an independent panel found them guilty of serial breaches of the salary cap.

After initially indicating they would appeal, Saracens performed a u-turn and accepted the punishment in November.

Questions have been raised too over if they can adhere to the salary cap this term -- their star studded line-up provided nine of the England squad, including captain Owen Farrell, that reached last year's Rugby World Cup final.

They have already shipped off one of their main stars in Welsh full-back Liam Williams, who is to rejoin Scarlets for next season.

Despite their success on the pitch and Wray's investment the club posted an operating loss of £3.89 million in their accounts for the year ending June 30, 2018.

It is believed the investigation surrounded Wray's involvement in companies such as VunProp Ltd (Mako and Billy Vunipola), Faz Investments Ltd (Farrell) and MN Property Solutions Ltd (Itoje).

The ramifications for the club that Wray effectively built will be huge if they drop out of the elite tier and despite having made some ground up on second from bottom Leicester they are still 18 points adrift.