Worcester suspended from all competitions after failing to meet RFU deadline

Worcester 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.

Worcester fans wave flags outside Sixways
Worcester fans wave flags outside Sixways (David Davies/PA)

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 £25million, including at least £6m in unpaid tax, amid growing anger felt 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.”

Closed gates at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium (David Davies/PA)

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 will “imminently” send in professional advisers to take a closer look at the club and potential options.

And putting the club in 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.

Sixways Stadium
Sixways Stadium (David Davies/PA)

“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 will work with Premiership Rugby and DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to establish next steps for the club and what this will mean for the Gallagher Premiership, the men’s Academy and Allianz Premier 15s competitions.

Premiership Rugby confirmed that Worcester’s league game at Gloucester on Saturday will not take place.

“Although the RFU decision to suspend Worcester Warriors from all competitions won’t be a surprise to many, I know this will continue to be a distressing time for the players, staff and supporters at the club and we will continue to support them where we can during this next phase,” Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor said.

“This decision affects other clubs in the league, too, and we are sorry for the disruption it has caused Gloucester Rugby and its supporters, whose home fixture will no longer take place this weekend.”

Because the Warriors have no public liability insurance, Worcester’s squad face training off-site when the players eventually reconvene.

Steve Diamond
Worcester rugby director Steve Diamond (David Davies/PA)

Speaking last week, Worcester rugby director Steve Diamond said: “We have been in this period of near-purgatory for a while now, and it is starting to come to a head.

“I don’t know how it has got to this position. It is sad, and it is diabolical that it has been allowed to walk itself to the graveyard, virtually, and I never thought it would get to this position, but it has.

“If the right investor with the right capital investment, working capital money, comes in, then you wouldn’t have to be Warren Buffett (American business magnate) to turn it round.”