Former Gloucester owner Ryan Walkinshaw claims owners of rival Premiership clubs admitted to him that they had broken Premiership salary cap rules.
Premiership Rugby are investigating allegations in the Daily Mail that questioned whether champions Saracens complied with the rules.
“There is literally zero doubt that some clubs break the salary cap,” Walkinshaw said on Twitter.
“I have heard a number of club owners admit it to my face.”
Regulations stop clubs spending more than £7m on player wages and benefits in any season.
Clubs are allowed two players whose wages can sit outside the cap, and are given extra allowances for home-grown players and those who are injured or on international duty.
“When I started I even had one offer to help me ‘bend the rules’. Another laughed at the ease with which he broke the cap at lunch with me once,” added Walkinshaw, who was in charge at Kingsholm from 2010 to 2016.
Salary cap breaches ‘like performance enhancing drugs’
The £7m cap will remain in place until the end of the 2019-20 season, having gone up from £6.5m in 2018.
In October 2015 Premiership Rugby reached “confidential agreements” over “certain issues” with some clubs over the salary cap, while in February Harlequins were fined for being £12,479 over the limit.
But Walkinshaw, who feels that independent auditors should be brought in for salary cap investigations, believes breaching the rules on pay is a massive issue.
“I personally see salary cap breaching in the same way I see performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.
“One is financial-enhanced performance and the other is chemical-enhanced performance, but both have a similar effect on a club’s ability to deliver on the pitch.
“What was fascinating during the 2014 ‘alleged’ breaches was the attitude of the clubs.
“I fought hard to try to ensure that the alleged clubs in breach would be brought to justice. Sadly I was one of only a small handful of clubs who shared that same mindset.
“Many of the clubs held surprising positions on this, such as claiming it wasn’t in the best interest of the sport to punish clubs in breach or shame them publicly – that any breach should be either swept under the carpet or at worst done privately behind closed doors.
“This led me to believe that many more clubs were potentially in breach than I had initially feared.”
Premiership Rugby take breaches ‘very seriously’
Premiership Rugby, which runs the top flight of the game in England, says it is investigating the reports about Saracens – who say they “readily comply” with the division’s salary cap regulations.
“We take all information relating to the Salary Cap Framework very seriously,” said a Premiership Rugby spokesperson.
“Premiership Rugby has a duty to all clubs to deliver the system in a transparent, objective and non-discriminatory manner.
“Each season all of our clubs are subject to a detailed independent audit of all player salaries and benefits to ensure they are fully declared and comply with the Salary Cap Framework set by our Board. We can’t comment on the specifics of the original story but will look closely at any information provided.
“Any decision on follow-up action would be taken with the assistance of independent bodies in accordance with the regulations.”
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