Saracens Football Club is a professional rugby club based in London’s Hendon district. The club holds home matches at the Allianz Park stadium, which seats 10,000 spectators. The team was founded in 1876, the traditional colors are black and red.
The team competes in the English Premier League, the winner of which became in the seasons 2010/11, 2014/15 and 2015/2016. In addition, the Saracens take part in the Anglo-Welsh Cup raffles, as well as EPCR tournaments. In the 2015/16 season, the team not only won the home championship, but also made a double, for the first time in its history, becoming the owner of the European Champions Cup.
The club was founded in 1876 by philologists-students from Marilebon. Two years later, the Saracens merged with the Crusaders team, which was based nearby. In 1892, the team moved from the Crown Lane Stadium (Southgate, London) to the Force Farm (Winchmore Hill) arena. Subsequently, the Saracens used nine more stadiums before settling on Bramley Road in 1939. At the same time, World War II prevented matches from being held until 1945. It is reported that the name of the club comes from the “resilience, enthusiasm and invincibility of the desert soldiers of Saladin XII century.”
The team held the first ever match against the Blackheath Club. The next meeting, the Saracens, had to wait nine years – then a friendly game was offered to host the Harlequins. On the whole, reaching an agreement on conducting serious matches was a difficult task for the club management, since the Bramley Road infrastructure left much to be desired. During the “amateur” rugby period, several Saracen players represented the England team: John Steeds played five international matches in the hooker position (1949–50), Vic Harding played locka (1961–62), George Sheriff represented the national team in 1966–67 .
Later, when the stadium maintenance difficulties were overcome, the Saracens held many matches with the English rugby giants. The club was particularly successful in the 1970s, when the team reached the semi-finals of the National Cup. In 1971, at the Bramley Road, the Saracens accepted the international team (International XV). Five thousand people watched the match, and it was a record London North at that time. The meeting itself ended in a draw (34-34).
The harsh times in the early 1980s gave way to a fairly successful period. Coach Tony Russ and captain Floyd Stedman led the Saracens to victory in the second division of the 1988/89 season – then the team won in all matches of the championship. A year later, to the surprise of many, the club finished fourth in the first division, skipping ahead of the “London Wasps”, “Gloucester” and “Bath”.
However, within two years, the team lost a number of leading players: Leonard went to the Harlequins, Ryan – to the “Uosps”, Clark joined the “Bata”. The restructuring of the league system in the 1992/93 season reduced the number of league participants, and the Saracens, together with three other clubs, ended up in the second division. The club finished the 1993/94 season in third place, losing the opportunity to return to the elite. Rugby players succeeded only in a year. Former club player David Wellman was put in charge of the transformations that were to take place at the club. He commissioned another ex-Saracen, Mike Smith. It was he who led the process of transition of the club on a professional basis.
The team felt the need to attract additional financial resources to strengthen the composition and improve the gaming infrastructure. At the end of the 1995/96 season, Saracens was again on the verge of relegation with the West Hartlepool club. However, Mike Smith, who became the general director, convinced the leadership of the Rugby Union that at the end of the first professional rugby season no one should leave the elite division.
The Saracens opened the 2010/11 Premier League season against London Irish. Then the team won over four matches until it lost to the newcomers of the league – Exeter Chiefs. The European campaign was not a success for the club: the Saracens took the last place in the Heineken 2010/11 cup group. The team had to play with the strongest rivals from the Old World: “Leinster”, “Racing Metro” and “Clermont”. Both French clubs in that season got into the semifinals of the national championship. On the domestic scene, the Saracens performed well. For one round before the end of the regular championship, the team secured a place in the semifinals, which the club was supposed to hold at home. In the final round of the Hertfordshire beat “Harlequins”, thereby obtaining the tenth victory in a row. Among the victims of this series are Northampton Saints, London Wasps, Exeter Chiefs and Lester Tigers. Having proved to be stronger than the opponent in the eighteen games of the championship, the Saracens have become the team with the highest number of victories. Nevertheless, the team took only the second place – the reason for this was the bonus points scoring system.
In the semifinals, which took place in Watford, the club hosted Gloucester. The exciting ending of the game and the penalty shootout, realized at the very end of the match by Owen Farrell, brought victory to the hosts (12-10), who reached the Premier League final for the second time in a row. The decisive match brought the team back to Lester Tigers again. In the first half, the initiative belonged to the “Saracens”, and the segment ended with a score of 16-9 in their favour (an attempt was made by James Short). The key role in the match was played by the defensive power of the team. In the nine-minute at the end of the match, the Saracens reflected the “Leicester” attack, which consisted of more than thirty phases. Then, when the score was 22–18 in favor of the Saracens, the judge appointed a penalty to the gate of their rivals, thus ending the entire game. The club first became the champion of England and managed to take revenge for last year’s defeat. Player of the match was recognized Shalk Brits, who contributed to the entry attempt.
In the same season an important event took place outside the field. The football club Watford, the owner of the Saracenі Arena, terminated the lease agreement. Left without a home stadium, the club management looked at several alternatives. On November 10, 2010 it became known that the club was negotiating a possible move to the athletic stadium of the Barnet Kopthall complex. The Saracens planned to modernize the arena, which in the future was supposed to hold ten thousand spectators (3,000 permanent seats and seven more in the dismantled stands). In this case, artificial turf should have been the first in the history of English rugby. However, the negotiations moved slowly, and after a while the Saracens reached a new agreement with Watford. The agreement provides for at least ten home club matches in the 2011/12 season.
After the Japanese tour of the Saracens, the club entered into partnerships with the local Fukuoka Sanix Blues. The British held an easy match for themselves at the Global Arena at the very beginning of the term of office of Buck Shelford as head coach. However, the next game with “Suntory Sangoliath” was more intense. In the 2008/09 season, a consortium from South Africa acquired 50% of the club’s shares. In the middle of the season Eddie Jones left the team, Brendan Venter was announced as the new head coach. The new leadership found many rugby players untenable. However, the result of transformations exceeded all expectations – the team won the first eight matches of the 2009/10 season. However, the team lost ground and finished third, following Lester and Northampton.
Aviva Premiership Trophy
Champion (3): 2010/11, 2014/15, 2015/16;
Finalist (3): 1997/98, 2009/10, 2013/14.
European Rugby Champions Cup Trophy
Winner (2): 2015/16, 2016/17.
English Welsh Cup
Winner: 1997/98, 2014/15
Premier League (Rugby-7)
Winner: 2012, 2013
Millionaire Nigel Wray bought the Saracens F.C. in November 1995 and started investing, bringing in international rugby greats such as François Pienaar, Michael Lynagh, Philippe Sella and Kyran Bracken. However, the team finished the tournament in seventh place. Then after a few other signings, such as Danny Grewcock, Roberto Grau and Gavin Johnson, they won the FA Cup and the national runners-up. In European competitions, he reached the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup in 2008 and also the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup in 2003, 2007 and 2009.