Rotherham face liquidation

Rotherham, who were relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season, face extinction unless they can find new backers by Friday. With debts of £1.5m - £400,000 of which is in unpaid VAT - the South Yorkshire club will go into voluntary liquidation unless a major investor comes forward within the next few days.

With the Rugby Football Union (RFU) ruling against a buy-out by the South African millionaire Johann Rupert and a move to London, time is running out for Rotherham, who have appointed the Australian Ross Reynolds as coach and signed 10 new players. But at two hours' notice they called off a pre-season friendly with Ulster at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium last Friday, and withdrew from Saturday's Middlesex Sevens.

Rotherham were on the brink of taking legal action against England Rugby Ltd, who control the Premiership, but who allowed Worcester's promotion to stand.

It was to be Rotherham's case that they should not have been relegated, so guaranteeing their £1.8m funding for the forthcoming season.

At an emergency meeting yesterday it was clear that - even with the benefit of a parachute payment of £700,000 - the club's position was untenable.

The major creditor is Mike Yarlett, who has been with Rotherham for over 30 years and took the RFU to the High Court five years ago when it reduced the size of the Premiership from 14 clubs to 12. He lost the case at a personal cost of £300,000 and is now unprepared to continue his financial support.

* Jonny Wilkinson will make his long-awaited comeback from injury tonight against Connacht in Newcastle's pre-season friendly in Galway.

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