DAVE RENNIE, the Glasgow Warriors head coach, is not one to mince his words and he is adamant his side have been short changed by a disciplinary hearing decision that a slap on the wrist was all Saracens deserved for fielding an ineligible player in the final round of Champions Cup pool games.
The club, which has already paid one fine to EPCR, the tournament organisers, as well as more than £5.3 million to PRL, who run the English Premiership, were ordered to pay just £25,000 for their latest offence.
“Whether it is intentional or not, they have played an ineligible player,” Rennie reacted. “There is a precedent set in the past in Europe where teams have been docked points for playing an ineligible player.
“In the end, what you permit, you promote. What EPCR are saying is it is okay to play an ineligible player as long as you are prepared to pay a fine. It’s disappointing from our point of view.”
Glasgow have an interest in the outcome of the hearing because if Saracens were docked points, they would drop out of the qualification spots for the quarter finals of the Heineken Champions Cup and Glasgow would take their place.
The decision was reached by an independent disciplinary panel last Friday, but both sides – EPCR and the club – have the right to appeal, and Rennie believes that is exactly what the organisers should do after Saracens admitted fielding Titi Lamositele, a USA international, when they beat Racing 92 last month after his work permit had run out.
“We would like that to be the case,” Rennie added. “Racing have made a few comments as well about not being happy at that game and being denied a potential home quarter final.
“Maybe it is all the issues around those who have booked flights and all the arrangements – so it is easier not to change it. I still don’t think that is acceptable. In the end, they have played an ineligible player and should have been docked points.
“I would like a bit more clarity on how they came up with the fine based on what Saracens have done previously.”
Racing 92 have already made their thoughts clear on the matter. “Racing 92 are aware of this grotesque decision,” read a statement from the club. “We now know that a club can play fast and loose with the salary cap over several seasons. We know also that a club still has the chance to be crowned a champion of an international competition while continuing to make a mockery of its regulations. We know too that a club only has to risk 0.07 per cent of its budget in order to get an ineligible international player. This marvellous sport does not have the same values for everybody but we will be happy to go and play our friends in Clermont.”
Rennie poured scorn on the argument put forward at the disciplinary hearing that Saracens’ offence was nothing but a minor administrative oversight – Lamositele’s work permit had been valid when the squad was named but ran out the day before the game. He had it renewed the following week.
“I have no sympathy, the rules are the rules. It is black and white, there are no greys here. He was ineligible to play and they played him,” he said.
“I would hope EPCR would review this. When we look at the precedents – other clubs have been docked points so why is this situation different? Saracens have been in the news a fair bit, they have been hammered a few times – now they are going soft on them. I don’t understand the reasoning.”
Rennie suggested that Saracens have wealthy backers and don’t seem to be badly affected by the fines they have already had to pay and won’t be worried by this.
Had Saracens been docked points, it would have revived Glasgow’s European campaign, which is currently dead after they finished the pool stage as ninth seeds with only the top eight going into the quarter finals.
The lack of European success, however, has not been enough to deter one of the club’s stalwarts, Rob Harley, from deciding to stick with them for another two years, keeping him in his home city until at least 2022.
With 227 games under his belt, Harley leads the appearance stakes by a long way and, in all reality, was never likely to leave as long as Glasgow still wanted him. For all that, securing his services is still good business for the club as they try to establish a bit of continuity for the transition after Rennie leaves to coach Australia.
“We’ve built some momentum in Europe even if we haven’t got as far as we would have liked,” Harley inssited. “It’s good to be part of a winning squad. The culture is good, the team-mates are good, it’s fun coming to work and training with these guys.
“It was always a dream growing up to play for Glasgow so it’s been amazing to have that chance. I’m glad I now have the opportunity to continue that.”