Leicester Tigers are not at risk of automatic relegation from the Premiership if any charge brought against the club for breaking the salary cap refers to offences before the regulations were changed in 2020.
The salary-cap sanctions were stiffened in the wake of the Saracens scandal to include automatic relegation and the stripping of titles and trophies.

However, amid ongoing speculation over a possible charge against the league leaders, the Premiership have confirmed any transgression committed before the 2020-21 season would carry the sanctions in force at the time, which do not include automatic relegation and also have a lesser tariff of possible points deductions.

Leicester have stated they are “aware of allegations made against the club regarding historic image rights payments”, which were reported by The Times last month. Tigers added at the time they were “cooperating with Premiership Rugby, who are looking into the historic matter.”

More from Rugby Union

Tigers director of rugby Steve Borthwick has also spoken of “mismanagement on and off the field”, dating to before his arrival at the club in summer 2020.

The Times report said Andrew Rogers, the Premiership salary cap director, was looking at the possible role played by a now defunct image-rights company Worldwide Image Management, and whether Leicester had facilitated any payments between that company and Tigers players, and whether any such payments should have been counted under the salary cap.

Leicester have yet to lose a match this season, but a points deduction could derail their title bid.

The recommended points deductions, pre-2020-21, started at five points for a breach of £350,000 to £399,999 above the cap, up to 35 points for a breach over £650,000.

This corresponds to the 35-point penalty handed to Saracens in November 2019, although it was later raised by mutual agreement to ensure the London club was relegated.

The points deductions were raised in 2020 to 15 for a breach of £200,000 to £399,999, up to 50 for a breach of more than £650,000.

Leicester are currently 18 points clear of fifth place in the Premiership, which is the cut-off for making the end-of-season title play-offs.

For any sanction to apply to the current campaign, the charge must be brought and finished with, including any appeal, before the regular-season fixtures are completed in early June. Any case heard beyond that date would have its sanctions applied to next season.

There is a moratorium on relegation from the Premiership this season and next, but the cap regulations take precedence and any club found guilty of a serious enough infraction since 2020 could still be demoted.