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Allianz seeks talks as Saracens forgo sanctions appeal

(Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

German financial services company Allianz, the main sponsor of Saracens, has said it will hold talks with the English Premiership rugby union club after it opted not to contest heavy sanctions imposed for breaches of salary cap rules.

Premiership Rugby last week handed Saracens a 35-point deduction and a fine in excess of £5m (€5.8m/$6.45m) for the rules infraction, with the reigning English and European champion stating it would appeal the “heavy-handed” sanctions.

The announcement brought to a close a probe into business partnerships between some of the London club’s players and its chairman, Nigel Wray. The charges, which relate to the three seasons spanning 2016-17 to 2018-19, were brought in June following a nine-month investigation by Premiership Rugby, the organising body of the top division of English club rugby union.

An Independent Panel ruled that Saracens failed to disclose payments to players in each of the three seasons. In addition, the club was found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three campaigns. The Panel imposed a total fine of £5,360,272.31, along with the total deduction of 35 league points, which is applicable to the ongoing 2019-20 Premiership season.

Despite the club’s initial stance, Saracens yesterday (Monday) decided not to pursue an appeal and now Allianz has spoken out over the status of its partnership. Allianz holds naming rights to Saracens’ home stadium, Allianz Park, while its branding also appears on the front of the London-based team’s shirts.

In December 2017, the two parties extended the deal to run through until at least 2021. In a statement reported by the Daily Mail newspaper, Allianz said: “Allianz is a long time sponsor but is not a member of any executive or supervisory boards of Saracens. The financial decisions taken in relation to the remuneration of the players are taken by the club’s officials and Allianz has played no part in this process.

“At Allianz we act with transparency and integrity and living up to these high standards is very important to us. We will be holding discussions with the club to confirm this shared understanding and commitment going forward.”

Explaining the club’s decision not to appeal the sanctions, Wray said in a statement: “Any review or further appeal would be a costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise and so for the good of the game, the Premiership and this wonderful club and all its great people, a club which I have loved and served for 25 years, we have decided not to appeal but to take our punishment and hopefully soon put this behind us.

“I recognise that the arrangements between myself and players, made in good faith, which comprise the material element of the charges, should have been brought to the attention of the salary cap manager for consultation prior to entering into them.

“It is significant that following extensive investigations the independent panel stated that we have ‘not deliberately sought to circumvent the regulations’ albeit we recognise that some of our actions were considered to be ‘reckless’.”

He added: “We will shortly introduce robust independent governance measures acceptable to all, including the appointment to the Saracens board of a director, who will oversee a new governance regime. I will continue as always to support the club financially going forwards to ensure there is no financial instability or uncertainty.”