Itoje regrets 'invasion of privacy' caused by Saracens scandal

3 min

London (AFP)

Maro Itoje has said it felt like an "invasion of privacy" after he unexpectedly found himself at the centre of the Saracens' salary cap scandal.

The reigning Premiership and European champions will be relegated from English domestic rugby union's elite at the end of the season for repeatedly breaching the £7 million ($9 million, 8.4 million euros) salary cap limit imposed on all 12 clubs in the top flight.

England lock Itoje was placed in an uncomfortable spotlight after the full independent report into Saracens commissioned by Premiership chiefs was leaked.

The report showed Itoje had been paid £1.6 million for a 30 percent share of his image rights, while an alternative valuation sought by Premier Rugby Limited estimated he was overpaid by £800,000 and that, as a consequence, this amount was deemed to be salary.

"It wasn't ideal," Itoje said Thursday. "It felt like an invasion of privacy but some things are out of your control."

- 'Above board' -

Itoje was adamant he had not knowingly contravened Premiership regulations by entering into business dealings with former Saracens owner and chairman Nigel Wray, who bankrolled the club from the start of rugby union's professional era.

"When I entered into them (the agreements) they were all –- to my knowledge, based on anything I got told -- above board," Itoje said.

"There wasn't even the slightest thought of it being not allowed by the (Premiership's) salary cap manager.

"Obviously the situation is very different now. It is very clear that whatever you do, you have to get it checked."

The salary cap system is currently under review and it has been suggested the Premiership could follow American team sports such as the NFL by publishing details of players' wages.

Itoje, however, was wary of such a proposal with the 25-year-old British and Irish Lions second row saying: "I'm sure it works in a lot of different places but, believe it or not, when it comes to finances I'm quite a private person.

"On an individual level, I wouldn't want anybody or everybody knowing exactly what I'm earning, but fortunately we're not public officials.

"Obviously there is a salary cap manager and that's his job is to make sure everything is as it should be."

Itoje, meanwhile, refused to apportion blame for the spectacular fall from grace suffered by Saracens.

"No one at the club wanted this to happen and no one at the club envisaged this would happen," said.

"So I don't want to sit here and say: 'It was this person's fault or that person's fault'. I'm not here to point fingers."

Jamie George is the only one of Saracens' England stars, a group that includes Red Rose captain Owen Farrell, to declare publicly their intention to stay with the London club next season.

Itoje, asked if he would be following his fellow World Cup finalist's lead, replied: "We've had discussions with the club about what could potentially happen next year, what things are going to be in place. Nothing has been finalised yet.

"The club have said their piece. They have apologised and my mindset is forward, rather than backwards," he added.