Heineken Cup
Sarries facing fine for absent Borthwick
ESPNscrum Staff
September 27, 2010
Toulouse's Yves Donguy and Frederic Michalak pose with the Heineken Cup, accompanied by the captains of competing clubs, Heineken Cup launch, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, September 27, 2010
Saracens' Steve Borthwick was missing from the parade of captains in Cardiff on Tuesday © Getty Images

Saracens are facing a reported £9,000 fine after captain Steve Borthwick skipped the Heineken Cup launch in favour of a team trip to the Munich beer festival.

Borthwick was the only skipper from the 12 English, Welsh and Scottish clubs entered in this season's competition to be missing from the event staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the ground that will play host to the tournament finale on May 21, 2011.

Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths has since admitted it was "100% his decision" to send Borthwick on the team-bonding exercise and is braced for a financial sanction. "We knew what the potential outcome would be," Griffiths told The Guardian before defending his actions further.

"This event was organised months ago and is all part of what we're trying to do at this club. If you want to beat the likes of Northampton and Leicester it's a game of inches and we're finding a few more inches here. We're trying to be a little bit different, which will always raise eyebrows, but maybe others should look at what we're doing."

Griffiths clarified his position further by releasing a club statement, praising Borthwick's professionalism as well as reiterating Saracens' commitment to the Heineken Cup.

"The decision that Steve Borthwick should attend a pre-arranged squad function was entirely the club's decision, and nothing to do with Steve," he said. "Nobody can doubt the professionalism and commitment of perhaps the most professional and committed player in the country.

"The clash of dates was unfortunate but, at the 11th hour, we rationally decided it was more important for our captain to take part in a long-arranged and highly significant squad event than to attend a press conference where he was not nominated to be formally interviewed and from which his non-attendance became the main story.

"Our total commitment to this year's Heineken Cup competition is writ large across every billboard in London promoting our match against Leinster at Wembley on October 16. It's unlikely any club has ever embarked on such a marketing campaign for a group fixture."

Derek McGrath, the European Rugby Cup chief executive, was quick to express his disapproval of Borthwick's late withdrawal before confirming a fine would be likely. "We're disappointed,'' said McGrath. "We don't make big demands and all the clubs agreed to abide by the notice to attend. There will be a financial sanction if the case is proven against them."

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