Saracens v Premiership Rugby
An independent panel, chaired by Lord Dyson, has rejected a competition law challenge to Premiership Rugby’s salary cap, and imposed a points deduction of 35 league points and a fine of £5.3m on Saracens rugby club for breaching the salary cap regulations.
The rugby union salary cap is one of several cost control measures introduced in sports leagues in recent years, including the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules that operate within the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League and the EFL Championship. Tribunals have previously rejected competition law challenges to those rules brought by QPR and Galatasaray football clubs.
The lawfulness of sporting salary caps, present in a number of rugby and cricket leagues, is topical as the EFL Championship is reported to be considering replacing its FFP rules with a salary cap following the financial crises experienced by Bury and Bolton Wanderers. As well as promoting financial stability by preventing excessive spending on player wages, salary caps can promote a more balanced sporting competition by reducing inequalities in wage levels – and therefore player talent – between clubs.
Saracens, the current Premiership champions, was found to have failed to disclose payments and exceeded the salary cap ceiling in the 16/17, 17/18 and 18/19 seasons. The 35 league points deduction is set to be imposed in the current 19/20 season. Saracens has stated that it will appeal. Premiership Rugby’s press release is here, and BBC Sport coverage is here.
Julian Gregory successfully represented Premiership Rugby in respect of the competition law aspects of the case.