Nigel Wray plans to remain “actively involved in the work of the Saracens Sports Foundation”

Saracens owner Nigel Wray has retired as club chairman with immediate effect.

Wray first invested in the club in 1995 and reclaimed full control in April 2018 by buying back a 50% stake sold to South African firm Remgro.

Saracens were deducted 35 points and fined £5.36m in November after an inquiry into business dealings between Wray and some Sarries players.

“As we enter a new year, a new decade, it is time for the club to make a fresh start,” he said in a statement.

“I am not getting any younger and feel this is the right moment for me to stand down as chairman and just enjoy being a fan of this incredible rugby club.”

He added that the Wray family “will continue to provide the required financial support to the club”.

Edward Griffiths is returning to the club as interim chief executive for the next 12 months.

Saracens established themselves as the dominant force in English club rugby over the past decade, winning the Premiership title on five occasions and being crowned European champions three times, most recently when they beat Leinster 20-10 in last season’s final.

But their reputation was severely tarnished by the financial scandal which emerged last year.

They were sanctioned by a disciplinary panel for breaching salary cap regulations in the past three seasons.

Saracens apologised for “administrative errors relating to the non-disclosure of some transactions” to Premiership Rugby Limited.

In a statement, Wray said the sanctions were “absolutely devastating” for everyone connected with the club.

He added: “It has been acknowledged by the panel that we never deliberately sought to mislead anyone or breach the cap and that’s why it feels like the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet.”

The club initially indicated they would appeal, but later decided not to take the matter any further and Wray said they accepted the penalties “with humility”.

They have won five of their seven Premiership games so far this season, but are bottom of the table on -12 points and are 18 points from safety.

Analysis

Chris Jones, BBC rugby union correspondent

Wray’s legacy has been tarnished by the salary cap scandal, and it is surely no coincidence he is standing down just months after the breaking of the storm which battered his and the club’s reputation.

However, Wray has had a seismic impact on English and European rugby over the past 25 years, both as the beating heart of Saracens and as a prominent and influential voice in the sport.

Wray has done as much as anyone to drag rugby union into the professional era. Without benefactors like him, the professional club game would not exist.

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