Wasps are on the brink of finalising a deal to play at Sixways, the former ground of Worcester Warriors. The arrangement would bring professional rugby back to the venue just months after Warriors were liquidated.
Wasps, who are expected to abandon plans to move to Solihull, were relegated from the Premiership following their own liquidation last year. They are now in the process of applying to join the Championship and any move to Sixways would have to meet the Rugby Football Union’s conditions.
On a dramatic day for the stricken former Premiership clubs, it was also announced that Worcester Warriors would cease to exist, and that Sixways Rugby would enter National League 2 West after rebranding semi-professional side Stourbridge.
The move would involve a groundshare agreement between Wasps and Sixways.
Atlas Worcester Warriors Rugby Club Limited confirmed that it had pulled out of the application process to compete in the Championship next season as Worcester Warriors. Director Jim O’Toole stated they “cannot agree to the RFU’s conditions and commercial restrictions”.
'The Worcester Warriors brand is gone'
“We will invest in [Stourbridge’s] semi-professional first team and they will play at Sixways,” O’Toole said. “We will invest significantly to get them through the leagues. The plan will be to reach the Championship by 2026.
“We hope to be able to call upon former players to come in and help us move through the divisions. Some of the older guys who can still mix it in that league, as well as the players who were breaking through from the academy.
“This decision will clearly upset and annoy a number of people. The sad fact of life is that the Worcester Warriors brand and the Worcester Warriors business is gone. The name sadly will disappear.”
The RFU said that it would consult members of Stourbridge about the proposed changes. The governing body has the power to veto changes deemed not in the best interests of the game.
An RFU statement read: “The RFU has been clear that its priority was to enable Worcester Warriors to play in the Championship and Worcester Warriors Women in the Premier 15s in a sustainable way.
“The information required has been asked for repeatedly and deadlines were extended to provide the best possible chance for this to happen.
“The RFU will now consult with the local rugby community over the proposed relocation of Stourbridge RFC and the change of name.
“Our priority is to ensure the best interests of rugby and the rugby community are preserved.
“The RFU maintains its commitment to running the Midlands academy, which it took over in November, and the continuation of Worcester Warriors Women.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “This is devastating news for rugby fans across the West Midlands. The Government has done everything it can to protect Worcester Warriors, including through financial support during the pandemic.
“Despite repeated assurances from the Atlas consortium, we are deeply disappointed that fans will no longer be able to support their club in the Championship – either next season or beyond.
“We fully support the RFU in its objective to obtain all necessary information with regards to the club’s sustainability and ownership when participating in their competitions.”