New lockdown measures could leave Saracens in limbo for next season
Saracens, who are preparing for a European Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92 in Paris on Saturday, do not know when their new season will start after the government pressed pause on the return of fans to sports grounds, raising the question of whether they will be able to bounce straight back into the Premiership.
The current Premiership and European champions will soon be relegated to the Championship for breaches of the top flight’s salary cap. That league was due to start in December, but the majority of clubs are heavily reliant on gate income and would struggle to pay currently furloughed players without it.
“The last communication we had from the Championship was that it would start in the middle of December,” said Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby. “That may have changed this week which is worrying for the clubs and ourselves. It is a case of suck it and see.
“We have a big match on Saturday followed by our final two Premiership matches. We could be done by next Sunday or have a final to prepare for, but after that we are not sure. We had planned for a December start, but that may have to change. It is a very serious, worrying time at club and international level.”
With the government talking about restrictions lasting up to six months, there would be no time to complete the Championship campaign. The winners get promoted, if they meet the entry criteria, and the only way back for Saracens would be if the Premiership expanded to 13 clubs and became ring-fenced.
No gate income may force Championship clubs to follow Richmond and become amateur. Another potential issue for Saracens is whether their England players who have stayed with the club, including Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers and Maro Itoje, would jeopardise their international careers by playing in the second tier which does not have elite professional team status which provides exemption to rules such as distancing.