Worcester ordered to fix crisis or face suspension from all competitions
- RFU sets club two deadlines and three criteria to fill
- Insurance, payroll funds and ‘credible plan’ must be in place
Worcester Warriors have been warned by the Rugby Football Union they will be suspended from all competitions unless they can show proof of the necessary funds and long-term plan to lift the club from crisis by 5pm on Monday.
Worcester have also been ordered to provide guarantees by midday on Thursday that Saturday’s fixture against Newcastle can go ahead.
The RFU is demanding that by close of business on Monday, Worcester have the necessary insurance cover in place – it is due to expire at midnight on 26 September – enough funds to cover the monthly payroll and a “credible plan to take the club forward”.
Despite promises from the owners over the weekend that the sale of the club was close, Worcester remain mired in upwards of £25m of debt and face a winding-up petition from HMRC in early October.
The move from the RFU comes after weeks of what the club’s staff, who received only 65% of their wages last month, some nothing at all, have called “broken promises” from the owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring.
Failure to meet Monday’s deadline would see both the men’s and women’s teams kicked out of all competitions, potentially for good.
A statement from the union read: “The RFU has written to Worcester Warriors to confirm they will be suspended from all competitions, including the Gallagher Premiership, Allianz Premier 15s and Allianz Cup if the club cannot evidence insurance cover in place, availability of funds to meet the monthly payroll, and a credible plan to take the club forward, by 5pm on 26 September.”
First, the club must provide safety guarantees and evidence they have the necessary medical provisions in place to host Newcastle on Saturday. That is the same ultimatum issued last week before their match against Exeter which went ahead thanks to the tireless work of the club’s staff and volunteers who gave up their time for nothing to ensure the fixture could go ahead.
In other developments, Worcester have been forced to call on the 41-year-old academy coach Jonny Goodridge as well as the 37-year-old former deaf England international Mat Gilbert, who retired in April, for their 22-man squad for Wednesday evening’s Premiership Cup match at Gloucester.
Worcester had been working with the RFU to register additional players in time but still had to turn to Goodridge and Gilbert, who is now running a pizza business.
In a statement the RFU praised Worcester’s staff for their efforts but expressed concerns “the lack of available funds will not allow the club to be sustainable over the long term”. Earlier this week it emerged that the government has been accused of presiding over asset-stripping of the club, putting £15m of taxpayers’ money and Worcester’s future at risk by one of the club’s creditors.
Sport England, which oversaw a £15m loan to the club as part of the government’s Sport Survival Package, is claimed to have approved transactions relating to the freehold of the club’s stadium, Sixways, and the surrounding land, which has left the sale of Warriors “extremely difficult”, according to the creditor.
Whittingham and Goldring have insisted in recent weeks that the sale of the club was imminent, with the former claiming on Sunday that they were in the “final stages” of agreeing the heads of terms and that they hoped to make a formal announcement on Tuesday. No such announcement was forthcoming, however.