Worcester Warriors suspended from all competitions after missing RFU deadline

Crisis-hit club is burdened by debt

Andrew Baldock
Monday 26 September 2022 18:05 BST
Worcester have been suspended from all competitions with immediate effect (David Davies/PA)
Worcester have been suspended from all competitions with immediate effect (David Davies/PA)

Worcester Warriors have been suspended from all competitions with immediate effect after they failed to meet a Rugby Football Union deadline requesting proof of insurance cover and funding for the club’s monthly payroll.

The RFU also wanted evidence of a “credible plan to take the club forward” by 5pm on Monday.

But the crisis-hit Warriors have not responded to those requests, and their season has now been plunged into cold storage, with Worcester men’s and women’s teams both suspended.

Worcester are burdened by debts totalling more than £25m, including at least £6m in unpaid tax, amid growing anger towards owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, who have been accused of asset-stripping the club.

The RFU said: “The owners of Worcester Warriors have not met the RFU’s 5pm deadline to evidence insurance cover, availability of funds to meet the monthly payroll and a credible plan to take the club forward.

“The RFU has therefore suspended Worcester Warriors from all competitions, including the Gallagher Premiership, Allianz Premier 15s, U18s Academy Cup and Allianz Cup with immediate effect.”

Worcester’s Sixways Stadium is now closed. Staff were given until Monday afternoon to collect belongings, with no indication when, or if, it will reopen.

Culture minister Stuart Andrew said last week that the government would “imminently” send in professional advisers to take a closer look at the club and potential options.

Worcester fans wave flags outside Sixways

Putting the club into administration is a decision “we will not be afraid to take” if it is found to be the most suitable, the minister added.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “We appreciate this is incredibly difficult news for fans, staff and players.

“We would like to thank the staff and players who have worked tirelessly over recent weeks to enable matches to continue.

“We met with players and staff last week to explain why this action would be necessary and, regrettably, without assurances in place, we have had to take this action to protect everyone’s best interests.

“We hope a buyer can be secured to allow Worcester Warriors and the University of Worcester Warriors to return to professional league rugby.

“While it is the responsibility of each business owner to manage their individual finances, we will look at learnings from this situation to see what regulation can be put in place to provide all parties with more financial transparency.

“Rugby is a relatively young professional sport and it has been widely recognised that clubs have been facing financial challenges even before Covid.

“Successful professional leagues are vital for the wellbeing of the whole game.

“They inspire current and future players, delight fans by showcasing high skill levels and the exciting nature of our game. This is why it is so important that we continue to work with Premiership Rugby to improve the structure, governance and business model of rugby union in England.

“The RFU will continue to support community rugby in Worcester and is fully committed to ensuring local academy opportunities are provided for pathway players.”

The RFU added that it would work with Premiership Rugby and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to establish the next steps for the club and what this would mean for the Gallagher Premiership, the men’s Academy and the Allianz Premier 15s competitions.

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