Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingam, the Worcester Warriors co-owners, were branded as “laughably pathetic” after issuing a strange statement that appeared to blame their own players and supporters for the club’s financial woe.
The pair responded to ITV Central interview with Ted Hill, the Worcester captain, in which Hill indicated that Warriors staff deserved an apology.
What followed was an incendiary riposte that highlighted how players had refused to take pay-cuts and then failed to win games. It was also suggested that not enough Worcester fans had attended fixtures.
“We are thankful to all of the staff that supported the club through Covid in accepting a significant reduction in their salary but sorry that the playing squad could not accept a similar level of reduction and in some instances would not accept any pay cut at all. This was despite our openness at the financial impact this would have on the club,” read the statement from Goldring and Whittingham.
“We are thankful to those supporters who turned up week in week out to support the club but sorry that there were not more, nor enough of you on a regular basis to help make the club financially viable despite the significant personal funds we put into the club,” they added.
“We are sorry that we did not have the foresight during the pandemic to cut back on the squad budget but instead remained committed to giving the club the best chance of being competitive. We are thankful for the highlights on many match days but sorry that we were not able to win more games for those supporters that did turn up.”
Nick Easter, the Worcester forwards and defence coach, summed up the antipathy towards Goldring and Whittingam. “Laughably pathetic,” the former England back-rower posted on Twitter. “Still nothing face to face with anyone employed @WorcsWarriors.”
Worcester staff on the brink of losing their jobs
Earlier on Friday it had emerged that Worcester players and staff were on the brink of losing their jobs after HM Revenue and Customs refused to agree to an adjournment of its winding-up petition against the arm of the club that pays them.
The stricken side’s joint administrator confirmed WRFC Players Limited was almost certain to go bust on Wednesday, rendering all those contracted to it immediately unemployed.
Julie Palmer, of Begbies Traynor, had been seeking “urgent” talks with HMRC to ask it to agree to an adjournment of a hearing into its winding-up petition. Palmer said that HMRC had refused and that she expected compulsory liquidation to be imposed by the courts.
Players and staff went unpaid on Friday and would quickly be able to tear up their contracts irrespective of the winding-up petition.
Some members of staff at Worcester are yet to receive the remaining 35 per cent of August salaries, while players who failed to receive their September wages on Friday will be able to serve notice of a breach of contract and start the process of leaving Worcester after 28 days – 14 days for the club to rectify the situation followed by 14 days of notice. But the reality is many will struggle to find new jobs.
Palmer was confident having no players on their books would not affect the sale price of Worcester, describing their contracts as a “liability” rather than an asset. But it would mean the club would be unable to play their scheduled Premiership game against Harlequins next Saturday and leave them in a bigger race against time to find a buyer.
Palmer said a takeover needed to be completed within “weeks” and that she was speaking to “more than one seriously interested party”.
WRFC Players Limited owes the taxman in the region of £4.5 million, according to Palmer, who admitted liquidation would lead to that money being lost.
She said WRFC Trading Limited, the main part of the business that was put into administration on Monday, owed approximately £1.5 million. It also owes around £15 million to the Government in the shape of a coronavirus bail-out.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “We take a supportive approach to dealing with customers who have tax debts and only file winding-up petitions once we’ve exhausted all other options, in order to protect taxpayers’ money.”
Meanwhile, Gloucester have offered a 50 per cent discount to Worcester season ticket-holders on tickets to Premiership and Premiership Cup matches at Kingsholm.