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Cockerill defends salary cap

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill has described the Aviva Premiership salary cap as "a good thing" following a report that Saracens and Bath are being investigated for alleged breaches of it.

Premiership Rugby has refused to comment on a report in Saturday's Daily Mail that Saracens and Bath are under scrutiny.

The newspaper claims an inquiry is under way after a 'whistleblower' made complaints to salary cap auditors.

Recommended sanctions for such offences are points deductions and fines, although the extent of any alleged breaches is not apparent.

Speaking after Tigers' 23-19 league defeat to Northampton, Cockerill said: "The cap is there for a reason. It is a good thing because it keeps the league competitive.

"Ultimately, if you have one or two clubs with owners that want to spend limitless amounts of money, it's okay.

"But sides like ourselves, Gloucester and Saints (Northampton), who pay our own bills and we have a robust financial structure in that we spend what we can afford to spend, that's a good model to be part of.

"There is no point having two or three sides who can spend £15million, and the rest can spend £5 or £6 million, because that is what makes the league uneven.

"We can only afford to spend what we've got. What we create, we spend. We are not in debt, and that is exactly how we want to stay."

In response to the newspaper report, a Premiership Rugby spokesman told Press Association Sport: "Premiership Rugby cannot comment on whether investigation proceedings are taking place or not.

"Any such investigation would be done under the salary capping regulations 2013-14.

"Regulation 15 of those regulations provides that any such proceedings are confidential."

Points deductions can range from four points for a salary cap breach of up to £75,000, to 40 points for more than £250,000.

Saracens, on Friday, led calls to scrap the Premiership salary cap, claiming seven Premiership clubs have indicated they want the existing system abolished, and say the matter will be discussed at a meeting of Premiership Rugby shareholders on February 4.

In a press release issued by the club, Saracens said they are "creating a consensus among Premiership clubs to remove the salary cap, releasing the 'handbrake' on English club rugby".

Such a move, though, was greeted by surprise in many quarters.

Harlequins chief executive David Ellis said: "The comments regarding an abolition of the salary cap were somewhat surprising given we have recently had discussions on this very topic as a league.

"The fundamentals of this regulation were approved recently at a shareholder meeting and so I can't understand why the issue is being raised again so quickly.

"If there is a genuine desire to have a fresh discussion on the salary cap then we are more than happy to have a debate as a league, but in the right way, in the right forum.

"As a club, Harlequins fully supports the salary cap - it is one of the elements which makes ours one of the most competitive leagues in the world."

Premiership Rugby introduced a salary cap in 1999.

It is currently £5million per club and will rise by £500,000 for next season, when clubs will also be able to nominate two marquee "excluded players". That decision was a unanimous one made by Premiership Rugby shareholders earlier this year.

Premiership Rugby described the salary cap as "a progressive system whereby the maximum spend is linked to revenue increases from TV and other centralised commercial rights".

Any changes to the Premiership salary cap would require a 75 per cent majority of Premiership Rugby shareholders.

"The salary cap has served its purpose," Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths said.

"It's time to seize a golden opportunity to grow the game, to ensure a level playing field in Europe, to build the strongest league in world rugby and to let players earn market-related salaries.

"The combination of England hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and sevens featuring in the 2016 Olympic Games creates a historic, but fleeting, platform for rugby union to grow dramatically. We must release the handbrake and step on the accelerator.

"It would be a pity if the world's top players light up the World Cup on English soil and then leave to play club rugby in France. If the salary cap is left to forbid the required investment, it will kill any hope of growth."

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