London - European and English champions Saracens are to be relegated at the end of the season due to breaching the salary cap, Premiership Rugby announced on Saturday, as the club apologised for their role in the crisis.
Officials decided to take the radical step after further discussions with the club who had already been punished earlier in the season for previous breaches.
"Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs," said Darren Childs, Chief Executive of Premiership Rugby in a statement.
"At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the Salary Cap Regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season."
The decision will not have come as a shock to the star-studded squad - which includes the likes of England captain Owen Farrell and dynamic lock Maro Itoje - as it had been widely reported they were informed of the decision at a breakfast meeting on Friday.
Following the decision over Saracens' relegation, the club will continue to compete in the Premiership through to the end of the 2019-20 season.
They can still retain their European Champions Cup trophy although the players' morale will have taken a battering ahead of their final pool match at home to French club Racing 92 on Sunday.
England head coach Eddie Jones will be concerned too about the state of mind of the players.
Nine of them made up his squad that reached last year's World Cup final while the Six Nations gets underway in a fortnight.
Neil Golding, chairman of Saracens, said there was no denying errors had been made.
"As the new chairman of Saracens I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes," said Golding.
"I and the rest of the board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward."
In November, Saracens were docked 35 points and fined Pound 5.3 million for breaking the salary cap for the past three seasons.
Ed Griffiths, the club's interim chief executive, is believed to have conceded it is impossible to cut the wage bill by Pound 2 million for this term thus breaching the Pound 7 million salary-cap, having added England internationals Elliot Daly and Jack Singleton to their squad.
The Times newspaper claimed that there will be further meetings with the players next week to discuss their futures with some perhaps wanting loan moves so they preserve their hopes of making the British and Irish Lions squad in 2021.
Saracens had begun off-loading players with Wales star full-back Liam Williams due to rejoin Welsh region Scarlets for next season.
Nigel Wray, whose massive investment since 1995 had transformed Saracens into domestic and European giants, had announced at the beginning of January he was standing down as chairperson.
However, one person who appears unlikely to leave is Mark McCall, the team's director of rugby.
"I love the club," the 52-year-old Northern Irishman said this week. "The club's been brilliant to me, brilliant for my family. I have been here over a fifth of my life.
"This is my 11th year at the club and you're not going to walk away, or run away, at the first sign of a bit of hardship. This is where we need a bit of leadership.
The former Ireland centre added: "Clearly we have brought some of this on ourselves.
"We can't feel sorry for ourselves. The sad thing is the playing group weren't part of that."
Despite their success on the pitch, and Wray's investment, the club posted an operating loss of Pound 3.89 million in their accounts for the year ending June 30, 2018.