Former Saracens wing Chris Ashton says he did not understand that the club was breaching the salary cap when owner Nigel Wray invested in a property with him.
The 32-year-old was named in a leaked report into relegated Sarries’ misdemeanours on Thursday.
Ashton, a presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, has spoken to a lawyer about the leak.
“[The investment] was completely separate to the rugby for me,” he said.
“Nigel was never involved in any negotiations of contracts or anything like that so I saw Nigel as a businessman outside of rugby that I went to see to get a loan, like I would from the bank.
“It was completely separate to my contract. Nigel likes property, he invests in property. He came along to the house to see it with me, we had a look round and he gave some thoughts on what we could do.
“I can completely understand why people are annoyed about it because it is a benefit that you don’t get at other clubs. Now I do understand. I do see it. At the time, I didn’t.”
‘Frustrating’ lack of confidentiality
Ashton joined Saracens in 2012 and stayed for five years, moving to French side Toulon in 2017 before signing for Premiership team Sale in 2018.
The wing says he has now paid Wray back, but that at one time the former Saracens chairman owned 20% of his house.
Although confidential information was redacted in the version of the Saracens report published by Premiership Rugby, the identities of some players were in the public domain after the full report was leaked.
“My name got brought up with the Saracens leaks, which I’m not too happy about at all,” Ashton added on Rugby Union Weekly.
“Whoever I spoke to about it told me it was going to be completely confidential so I was pretty upset that that was broken. It’s pretty frustrating.
“I’ve spoken to a lawyer who works with us all through the Rugby Players’ Association to see how we go about this.
“We did have confidentiality agreements and that has been thrown out the window. We’ll see if there is anything in it.”
‘I asked Nigel if he would help me buy a family home’
Ashton says he was two years into a four-year contract at Saracens when he entered into the co-investment with Wray.
His wife Melissa was pregnant and they “wanted to find a place to stay in forever and make a family home”.
“I knew Nigel had done it previously with some players and staff – he invests in a lot of property in and around London,” explained Ashton.
“I went along to ask him. We’d found a house we liked that needed some work doing to it. I went along to ask Nigel if he would help me buy it and help do the house up.
“So we’d invest in it together. We’d both put the same deposit in. I got the mortgage and we lived in it, did the house up and I still have it.
“We had a solicitors drawn-up contract to say that Nigel owned his percentage of the house and when the house was sold he would receive all his money back. I’ve paid that back.”