Former England wing Ugo Monye says rugby has lost its “moral high ground” after “financial doping” led to Saracens’ Premiership relegation.
They had already been deducted 35 points and fined £5.4m for three seasons’ spending above the cap.
“Some people are saying it’s too harsh: it can’t be,” Monye said.
“We’re talking about financial doping. If we were talking about drugs doping, we would all say to slap them with the harshest punishments ever.”
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Sarries, who have won four Premiership titles in the past five years, will not be allowed to compete in the Champions Cup next season even if they win this year’s competition.
And Monye told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast that rugby has now entered “an area of uncertainty” after Premiership Rugby announced Saracens’ relegation.
“For many years rugby was able to take the moral high ground and we’re not at that place now,” he added.
“People didn’t like football because it was governed by money, cycling because of doping scandals, athletics because of corruption – rugby has descended into that now. We need to regain people’s trust.”
What next for Saracens’ squad?
Saracens’ squad includes several international stars, such as England captain Owen Farrell, Mako and Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje.
The Rugby Football Union has confirmed that Championship players will be eligible for England duty, but the club needs to trim its wage bill and players’ futures with the side have been called into doubt.
But Monye is most concerned about how relegation will affect Sarries’ younger players, like 22-year-old flanker Ben Earl.
“I’m not worried about the top-level players,” Monye explained.
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“What if you’re Ben Earl who is breaking through and on the cusp of playing for England? A year in the Championship will kill you.
“Owen Farrell will get picked up, of course he will. Maro Itoje is a high achiever. I can’t imagine a player of his stature spending a year in the Championship. It seems impossible to think that that is going to happen.”