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Saracens escape points deduction and are fined just €50,000 at hearing

The English club are free to face Leinster in the quarter-finals, although EPCR can appeal the decision.

SARACENS HAVE ESCAPED a points deduction in the Champions Cup and have been fined just €50,000 after fielding an ineligible player during their pool win over Racing 92 last month.

Saracens will still be able to take their place in their quarter-final away against Leinster in April, pending any possible appeal of the decision by tournament organisers EPCR.

€25,000 of Saracens’ fine has been suspended until the end of the 2020/21 season.

owen-farrell Saracens out-half Owen Farrell. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The English club faced an independent disciplinary hearing in London this evening after EPCR brought a misconduct charge against the club over the possible ineligibility of USA prop Titi Lamositele, who came off the bench in their 27-24 win over Racing 92.

Saracens’ win secured them a place in the quarter-finals and denied Racing a possible home knock-out tie.

At this evening’s hearing, the independent disciplinary committee heard that Lamositele was eligible for the Champions Cup fixture on Friday 17 January, when Saracens named their matchday squad for the clash.

Saracens explained that “between the time of the matchday squad announcement and the match itself on Sunday, 19 January, Lamositele’s work permit expired and that Saracens were not aware of this due to an administrative oversight,” according to an EPCR statement this evening.

The committee accepted that Lamositele’s work permit had expired “unbeknownst to the club and that Saracens had not sought to gain any unfair advantage by selecting the player.”

The committee decided that Saracens had breached EPCR’s disciplinary rules and imposed the €50,000 a fine on the Premiership club.

“Following careful consideration of a complaint involving a player who has been contracted to Saracens since 2014, and who remains contracted to the club, the Committee believes that this was an unfortunate sequence of events brought about by an administrative oversight,” said committee chair, Roger Morris.

“However, Saracens are in breach of the Disciplinary Rules of the Heineken Champions Cup, and that breach constitutes misconduct which can be proportionately dealt with by way of a financial penalty.”

Both Saracens and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.

Earlier this evening, Racing 92 issued a strong statement saying that they would take “every provision to enforce their rights and the sporting fairness of the competition.” The French club seem unlikely to accept the independent committee’s decision without putting up a fight.

Clubs have been deducted points in EPCR competitions for fielding ineligible players in the past.

Grenoble had four points docked in 2012 after fielding an ineligible player in a Challenge Cup pool game, although Lotu Taukeiaho was not even registered in their tournament squad in that case.

In 2000, London Irish had two points deducted after using an ineligible player in the European Shield. In that instance, it was ruled that Richard Bates had not had the necessary clearance from the South African Rugby Football Union after moving to London Irish from Natal.

For now, Saracens are in the clear, although it remains to be seen if EPCR appeal the independent committee’s decision.

Saracens have already been relegated from the English Premiership ahead of next season due to salary cap breaches. 

- Originally published at 21.40

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Murray Kinsella

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