Saracens to appeal 35 point deduction and fine
Reigning Premiership champions Saracens will appeal against a 35-point deduction and £5.36m fine for breaching salary cap regulations over three seasons.
The punishment comes after an investigation into business partnerships between chairman Nigel Wray and some of the club's players.
European champions Saracens described the sanctions as "heavy-handed".
Both punishments have been suspended until the outcome of the appeal, leaving the club fourth in the table.
Had the points deduction been applied immediately, Mark McCall's side would be bottom of the Premiership with -26 points.
Sarries have several of the game's highest-profile players on the books and started the current campaign with a significant number still on World Cup duty.
Of the 31-man squad representing England in Japan, seven players came from Saracens - including captain Owen Farrell, and forwards Mako and Billy Vunipola, and Maro Itoje.
Full-back Elliot Daly, another member of the side that lost the final against South Africa on Saturday, joins Sarries now the tournament has finished.
The charges relate to a failure to disclose player payments in each of the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Saracens previously claimed they "readily comply" with salary cap rules and were able to spend above the £7m cap because of the high proportion - almost 60% - of home-grown players in their squad.
The club apologised for "administrative errors relating to the non-disclosure of some transactions" to Premiership Rugby Limited, but added it will "continue to vigorously defend this position especially as PRL precedent already exists whereby co-investments have not been deemed part of salary in the regulations".
In a separate statement, Wray said: "This is absolutely devastating for everyone associated with this amazing group of players, staff, partners and fans.
"It's been acknowledged by the panel that we never deliberately sought to mislead anyone or breach the cap.
"That's why it feels like the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet. We will appeal [against] all the findings."
During an independent disciplinary panel hearing, Saracens saw their challenge of the validity of the regulations on competition law grounds rejected.
Premiership Rugby introduced its salary cap in 1999 to ensure the financial viability of all clubs and the competition.
The regulations are also designed to control inflationary pressures on clubs' costs and provide a level playing field for clubs and a competitive Premiership.
"The decision upholds both the principle of the salary cap and the charges brought following an extensive investigation," a Premiership spokesperson said.
"We're pleased this process has reached a conclusion."