Saracens Club History
Established in 1876, Saracens Rugby Club are London’s premier rugby club competing in the Aviva Premiership, the European Champions Cup and the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
From humble beginnings, ‘Sarries’ have developed into one of world rugby’s most respected, renowned and recognisable teams.
On the pitch, the North London club are enjoying a period of unbridled success. In 2014/15 they were winners of six domestic trophies, across both the men's and women's competitins and in 2015/16 the team made club history by becoming the first English club since 2004 to win the European and Premiership double.
Off the pitch Saracens have won numerous awards for their community work and the Saracens Sport Foundation continues to engage with communities in and around North London and Hertfordshire on a daily basis.
In 1876 the Saracens Football Club was founded by the Old Boys of the Philological School in Marylebone (later to become Marylebone Grammar School) and its first fixture was at Primrose Hill playing fields with the red star and crescent worn. Amalgamation with neighbouring club, the Crusaders, occurred in 1878.
Move to Bramley Road
Saracens had played on nine different grounds before the move to Bramley Rd for the 1939/40 season (although the war actually prevented them from playing there until 1945).
The club has enjoyed fixtures with the leading clubs for many years and enjoyed a particularly successful time in the 1970's when they reached the semi-finals of the National Cup (now the Tetley Bitter Cup).
Special games played at Bramley Rd during this period include the 1971 match against a select International XV. It was a fantastic occasion, as a 5,000 strong crowd (the largest ever to watch a game in North London at the time) came to watch a magnificent contest, ending Saracens 34 International XV 34. Saracens were down 16 - 30 at one stage, before producing a great rally to equalise near the end. This was no mean feat considering the opposition contained J.P.R. Williams, and several other Lions! Open rugby was played throughout, with the day serving as a tribute to the late Brian Goodchild, and raising a considerable sum for a worthy cause.
After some bleak years in the early 1980's, the club responded to the challenge of the Courage Leagues, and with Floyd Steadman as captain and Tony Russ as coach, they won the second division in 1989 with a one hundred percent record. The following year in the first division the Saracens surprised many by finishing fourth in the league behind Wasps, Gloucester and Bath.
The 1992/93 season saw the leagues restructured with Saracens, along with three other clubs, being relegated to the second division. In 1993/94 Saracens finished third and narrowly missed out on promotion but the following year they finished as champions and were again back in the top flight. Saracens seesaw existence over the nineties was about to continue in 1995/96 where they again found themselves at the wrong end of the table along with West Hartlepool but they were saved in a reversal of the rules that saw them loose out a few years earlier.
A club reborn – the advent of professionalism
In November of 1995 Saracens gained the financial backing of Nigel Wray and this enabled the club to recruit the likes of Michael Lynagh (World Record Points Scorer), Philippe Sella (World's Most Capped Player), Francois Pienaar (The last Captain to lift the World Cup) and Kyran Bracken (England's up and coming scrum half), just four of the big names signed in 1996/97.
Saracens, as they had so often earlier in the century, 'up sticks' and moved to Enfield FC's ground and they started the new season well with a victory over title favourites Leicester. The rest of the season saw the team taking time to gel and they just missed out on European qualification finishing seventh.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Vicarage Road
The 1997/98 season, was to prove to be one of the landmark years of the club. A move to Watford now took place over the close season and a ground share with Watford FC and their 22,000 all seater Vicarage Road Stadium.
Saracens would call Vicarage Road home for 16-years. The first Saracens match at Vicarage Road was scheduled to be a league clash against Richmond. That match was cancelled following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. But a few weeks later, Saracens played their first match at their new home when Castres were the visitors in the European Conference. That ended in a 26-21 victory for the home side.
The club only lost three games during the season to finish second in the Premiership, one behind Newcastle and making their first appearance in the Tetley's Bitter Cup at Twickenham, after defeating Leicester, Richmond and Northampton on the way, where they demolished Wasps 48-18. This victory was the perfect stage for Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella to make their exit as they retired from rugby at the end of the season.
Memories from the Vic
The home of Saracens would be the stage for some of the club’s most famous and talent players. Legends such as Richard Hill, Thomas Caistengede, Kevin Sorrell, Kris Chesney and many, many more would leave an indelible mark on any Saracens fans memory with some superb performances.
There would be ups and downs during the clubs stay in Hertfordshire. Many coaches came into the club and some failed to deliver success, and some came mighty close. The club’s Heineken Cup run in the 2007/2008 season under the tutelage of Alan Gaffney would be one of the happier memories of the clubs stay at the home of the Hornets.
A new dawn
In February 2009 a South African consortium led by businessman Johann Rupert including ex-Springboks Francois Pienaar and Morne du Plessis.
Former Springbok, Brendan Venter, took over from outgoing director of rugby from Eddie Jones and would begin a transition at the club that would see Saracens become England’s premier side.
After a tumultuous summer where 15 players would be replaced, Venter alongside Ulsterman Mark McCall, would implement a new culture at the club with a long-term strategy to become English rugby’s finest club, on and off the pitch.
In the 2009/2010 season they would reach the Premiership final, narrowly missing out on winning their maiden title with an agonising defeat to Leicester Tigers.
Saracens star was on the rise, and the defeat to the Tigers would only strengthen their resolve and a season later under the leadership of Venter and McCall with trusted lieutenant Steve Borthwick calling the shots on the pitch, the Men in Black would lift their first ever league title in from of 80,000 fans at Twickenham Stadium.
With Venter leaving the club, Mark McCall led Saracens to another Premiership final in 2014. In the most controversial of calls the Men in Black would have their Premiership dreams snatched from them with an extremely contentious TMO call on extra time that would gift Northampton Saints the title in an epic Aviva Premiership Final. The club would also reach their first ever European final, losing out to Jonny Wilkinson’s team of Galaticos, Toulon, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Saracens though would regroup, and in some style, win a domestic League and Cup double the following season in 2014/15.
In January 2013, Saracens opened Allianz Park - the long awaited new home of the Men in Black positioned in beautiful green surroundings in NW4, North London. The state of the art stadium, designed and built to blend seamlessly into its stunning environment, is the only stadium in the country designed and built to BREEAM Excellent standards.
On the field, Saracens would break new ground once again with the club using the world’s first artificial turf pitch for professional rugby club.
Following the successes of the 2014/15 season Saracens went on to do one better in 2015/16 by securing their first ever European Cup, beating Racing 92 in Lyon. It was an impressive achievement for Saracens who also became the first side to win the European Cup without losing a game. Two weeks later, and after defeating Leicester Tigers in the semi final, Saracens were able to defend their Aviva Premiership title at Twickenham as they overcame Exeter Chiefs. The victory meant that Saracens became the first English club since 2004 to win a European and Domestic double.