Sixways Stadium is set to be without top flight men’s rugby union until at least the 2024-25 season after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) confirmed the suspension of Worcester Warriors from the Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup for the remainder of the current campaign.
The decision, following a meeting of the RFU’s Club Financial Viability Group yesterday (Thursday), triggers the Warriors’ relegation from the Premiership, and therefore, if investors can be secured, the club will restart in the Championship in season 2023-24. The club can appeal the decision if it can show there was no fault insolvency.
The Warriors were initially placed into administration and suspended from playing last month after failing to provide the RFU with evidence of insurance cover, availability of funds to meet its monthly payroll, and a credible plan to take the club forward. The Warriors confirmed that WRFC Trading Limited, which owns the Warriors, had asked the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to place the club into administration.
The Warriors have been pursued by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for unpaid tax of around £6m (€6.84m/$6.7m), while it also reportedly owes £15m of its share of the £124m loaned out to Premiership clubs by the DCMS in form of financial relief during COVID-19.
While WRFC Trading Limited entered into administration on September 27, WRFC Players Ltd, the body through which players and staff were paid, was wound up on Wednesday with all contracts terminated.
Ahead of yesterday’s announcement, hope had been raised over the long-term future of the Warriors as administrators Begbies Traynor revealed that the land around Sixways had been seized and would be part of any future sale. However, the RFU is believed to have acted now due to the likely timescale involved in any potential rescue plan.
The RFU said its Club Financial Viability Group is “encouraged by the progress” made by the administrators, including relating to the land around Sixways Stadium. It stated the decision to suspend the team has been taken in order to “prioritise the space and time” to work with Begbies Traynor to support the prospect of securing a deal with the right investor, giving the club the best chance for a long term sustainable future.
The RFU said that as the club no longer has staff and players on contract and with many seeking alternative employment, the decision has been made to focus on how the club can be viable over the long term. The RFU said administrators are in discussions with several potential investors.
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO, stated: “All parties continue to work together to provide the best possible outcome for Worcester Warriors over the long term. This includes discussions with the administrator and potential funders, which may enable the University of Worcester Warriors women’s team to continue in the Allianz Premier 15s this season, and we are fully committed to ensuring local academy opportunities are provided for pathway players.”
Julie Palmer, on behalf of Begbies Traynor, added: “Whilst disappointing that there will be no men’s rugby at Sixways this season I fully appreciate the position of RFU and PRL (Premiership Rugby Limited).
“I am reassured they are continuing to work with us in a positive way to try and achieve a rescue to enable rugby to take place next season in a properly structured approach to enable the long term viability and success of Worcester Warriors.”