English rugby giants Leicester Tigers will be spared automatic relegation from the Premiership provided any potential breaches of the league's salary cap occurred before rules were changed in 2020.
The club is currently under investigation by Premiership Rugby's salary cap director, Andrew Rogers, for offences alleged to have taken place between 2016 and 2020.
In particular, Rogers is believed to be examining Leicester's relationship with Worldwide Image Management (WIM), a now-defunct company that may have been used to pay players while circumventing the wage cap.
The accusations bear a resemblance to those infringements that saw Saracensrelegated at the end of the 2019/20 season, after which the Premiership adopted more severe punishments for salary cap breaches.
Automatic relegation and the stripping of titles were among those clauses added to the reformed sanctions club could face for such offences.
But it's understood Leicester would be subject to the same measures that were in place at the time of their alleged offence if they are found guilty, rather than being affected by the new, stricter laws.
Steve Borthwick's side are currently nine points clears at the top of the table and are on course to challenge for a first Premiership title since 2013 after winning each of their 11 games so far this term.
There are 16 points between the Tigers and fourth-placed Gloucester, who occupy the final spot able to qualify for the play-offs come June.
Relegation from the league has been shelved this season (and the next) following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, although egregious salary cap breaches could still supersede that suspension.
Saracens were fined £5.4million and initially handed a 35-point deduction following the results of their own investigation two years ago, though the point penalty was increased to 105 in order to ensure relegation.
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That initial punishment adhered to the Premiership protocols in place at the time—five points for a breach of between £350,000 and £399,999 above the cap, or up to 35 points for a breach of more than £650,000.
Following the Saracens debacle, Premiership powers agreed to increase those penalties to 15 points for a breach of between £200,000 and £399,999, or up to 50 points if clubs break the cap by more than £650,000.
Borthwick took charge of Leicester in 2020 and has said the club is "co-operating fully" with investigators concerning the alleged breaches thought to have occurred before he joined their ranks.
Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson was a coach at Saracens during their relegation nightmare, and he recently questioned the value in punishing a club for historic offences off the field.
"I was in it with Saracens and I wouldn't want anyone to go through that again. Now I've got through the grief cycle, to a certain extent I just think let sleeping dogs lie," he told reporters.
"I don't think it's anything to do with that current (Leicester) management or those current players and it seems like they could be punished if they are found guilty, for the acts of predecessors.
"What good is it going to do to drag someone else through the mud, particularly people at Leicester who were not involved at the time?"
In order for any resulting punishment to apply to the current 2021/22 campaign, i News noted the charges (including any subsequent appeal) must be finalised before the regular season ends in June.
Failure to meet that deadline means sanctions would instead apply to the following season.
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