A company which holds Worcester Warriors Rugby Club player contracts has been wound up, a development that is expected to initiate an exodus of players from Sixways.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing the Warriors for unpaid tax in the region of £6million.
While Worcester are in administration, the company that holds player and some staff contracts – WRFC Players Ltd, a subsidiary of WRFC Trading Ltd – had been operational and was the subject of HMRC’s action.
Judge Nicholas Briggs made an order winding up WRFC Players Ltd at an Insolvency & Companies Court hearing on Wednesday.
📝 Confirmation of Saturday's cancelled game and an administration update from @Begbies ⬇️
— Worcester Warriors (@WorcsWarriors) October 4, 2022
Club captain Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valeriy Morozov have already joined Bath on loan and others will follow them out of the door having become unemployed, along with members of staff.
Because they had not been paid for September, all players were able to leave on October 14, meaning that liquidation has simply brought their departure forward by nine days.
Hill wrote on Twitter: “What an unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester.
“A club who meant so much to everyone has gone the direction none of us wanted it to. A place where I played my rugby from 14 years of age and met so many people who mean so much to me and my family.
What an unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester. A club who meant so much to everyone has gone the direction none of us wanted it to. A place where I played my rugby from 14 years of age and met so many people who mean so much to me and my family… 1/6
— Ted Hill (@Ted_Hill26) October 5, 2022
“There’s been so many people to thank throughout my whole journey, starting off with Chim Gale and Nick Tisdale, who were my first coaches at Worcester and helped me not only to become the player I am but also the person I am. Also Alan Solomons, who gave me my first Premiership start and later went on to give me the amazing opportunity of captaining my home town club.
“To all those guys I am massively appreciative. Then to the current staff, who have helped guide this group of players through such a difficult time and have done it with such poise and elegance throughout all the highs and lows.
“To my team-mates, thank you for all the memories we have made together, they will be times that I will never forget.
“Then finally to the fans of Worcester, this is obviously not where any of us wanted this to end up, but the way you have supported us and the staff through this whole saga has be unbelievable and we’re forever grateful for that.
“There will be nothing written for the people who put us in this situation but to the governing bodies of rugby, something needs to change so that this doesn’t happen to any club again. Thank you Worcester for everything.”
Administrators Begbies Traynor are seeking a buyer for WRFC Trading Ltd and are talking to two consortiums, but any successful takeover will bring with it the urgent task of rebuilding the squad.
Worcester’s matches against Gloucester and Harlequins were cancelled on Monday and while they remain suspended from all competitions, they could be restored to the Gallagher Premiership if a buyer is found by the middle of this month.
No definite decision on relegation has been made by the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, although the chances of continuing in the top flight appear remote considering the lack of time to agree terms with new investors.
The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) called for “lessons to be learnt” from the situation at Worcester.
“The RPA is extremely saddened to hear of the liquidation of WRFC Players Limited,” a statement read.
“We stand with all Worcester employees. Our immediate thoughts are with all the players and staff who have lost their jobs today due to this terrible situation.
“We will continue to support our members in all ways that we can throughout this hugely challenging and difficult time, as we have done since it became clear that the club was in financial trouble.
“It is clear that lessons must be learnt from this situation and that players must be fully involved and consulted in any discussions regarding their futures and the future direction of the professional game.”