The fallout from the news that Saracens are to be relegated from the Premiership at the end of this season has been massive. It has led to frustration, celebration and speculation. ‘Is this a harsh enough punishment?’ people ask. ‘How will this affect their performances??’ they clamour. ‘What will happen to lovely Owen Farrell!?!?!?’ come the screams.
What this has also done, is forced Saracens into making a statement addressing the events. Club statements are beautifully formulaic, but also deceptively subtle pieces of prose. A deft balancing act is required. Get it right, and you effectively brush controversy under the carpet; get it wrong – admit too much guilt or shrug off the claims – then uproar reignites: miring your club, the board, the players, the fans, the couple who make the bacon butties outside the ground, into shame and embarrassment.
Fortunately for all the above, Saracens have produced a fantastic club statement. The platonic ideal of an apology: saying very little while inferring a lot. It can be broken down into five parts.
1. Accept guilt… partially
‘The board of Saracens wishes to unreservedly apologise for the mistakes made in relation to the salary cap regulations.’
Beautiful, just beautiful *kisses fingers like an Italian chef*. They’re apologising, but not for wrongdoing or misconduct or – let’s call it what it is – cheating. No, they’re apologising for mistakes that were made. It was nothing more than a confusion, could have happened to anyone… maybe they’re the real victims here?
2. ‘Rebuild trust’ / ‘Remake money’
‘Our goal is to rebuild confidence and trust. The first step was to appoint a new independent chairman to lead on governance reform ensuring errors of the past are not replicated in the future.’
It seems the board are a bit worried that their own fans are going to turn on them. Totally understandable when you consider that they’ll be going to go from watching their team play Racing 92 in the Champions Cup this season to organising transport to Jersey away next. This means less following, smaller turnout and reduced revenues… can’t be having that! Let’s rebuild that trust. Please, please, please pay to come and watch us play.
3. Happy, Happy Families
‘We understand this decision will be difficult for the Saracens family to accept. The Board must embody the values of the club, learn from its mistakes so the Club can come back stronger.’
Look, hey, this is a family – and sometimes families mess up. But it’s only because they love you. They’ve made mistakes, and they’ve apologised – they’re literally apologising now – so cut them some slack, ok. This will be the sort of thing we’ll look back in ten years’ time and laugh at. Unless it’s not, of course.
4. Sacrificial Lamb
‘It is in the wider interests of the Premiership and English rugby to take this decisive step, to ensure everybody is able once again to focus on the game of rugby, which we all love.’
Wow! Who would have thought? They’re not accepting relegation because they were forced to, but rather for the wider interests of the Premiership and English rugby. Noble in defeat, they have our best interests a heart. How sweet.
5. Let’s. Move. On.
‘We hope that we can now start to move forward, begin to restore confidence and over time, rebuild trust with PRL, its stakeholders and the wider rugby community.’
Those guys, you know the ones that broke the salary cap for two consecutive seasons and also refused to show their books to the independent investigative committee? Yeah, they’ve changed, now. Turned over a new leaf. What’s happened has happened; what’s in the past is in the past; what’s two Premiership trophies whilst fielding a squad that breached the salary cap is two Premiership trophies whilst fielding a squad that breached the salary cap. Potatoes patatas – see you in 2022.
By Will Sewell.