Saracens have been docked 35 points and fined more than £5million for breaching salary cap rules.

The defending Gallagher Premiership and European champions have received the biggest sanction in the history of the Premiership after arrangements between their multi-millionaire owner Nigel Wray and some of the clubs star players were investigated by an independent disciplinary panel.

The news, which is sure to send shockwaves around the rugby world, means Saracens will now head into the fourth game of the season on -26 points, and could yet face action from rival clubs regarding their previous titles.

The charges, which relate to the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, were brought in June 2019 following a nine-month investigation by Premiership Rugby.

The findings of a seven-month investigation by the PRL were withheld while the Rugby World Cup was ongoing so as not to disrupt the progress of the England national team, which contained nine Saracens players including the captain Owen Farrell.

Saracens were hit with the maximum punishment of 35 points, reserved for breaches of the regulations greater than £600,000 over a five-year period, and a fine of £5,360,272.31.

In a statement, Premiership Rugby (PRL) said: “The decision is that Saracens failed to disclose payments to players in each of the seasons 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. In addition, the Club is found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three seasons.”

But questions will now be asked over the validity of Saracens’ recent triumphs. The club won four of the past five Premiership titles and three European titles in that time.

Saracens can seek a review of the decision by an arbitration body but the review can only be on the basis that there has been an error of law, the decision is irrational or that there has been some procedural unfairness.

In the event that Saracens seek a review, the sanctions will be suspended pending the outcome of that review.