The Atlas consortium has agreed a deal to acquire Worcester Warriors, the former Premiership rugby union club which was expelled from the competition after entering administration.
The consortium features former Warriors chief executive Jim O’Toole and business partner James Sandford. The future of the club has been up in the air since October, when the Rugby Football Union (RFU) confirmed the suspension of the Warriors from the Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup for the remainder of the current season.
The decision triggered the Warriors’ relegation from the Premiership and meant that, if investors could be secured, the club would restart in the second-tier Championship in 2023-24. Sandford told BBC Hereford & Worcester that the consortium is in “constructive dialogue” with the RFU about returning in the Championship, with “other avenues” under consideration.
The Warriors were initially placed into administration and suspended from playing in September 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 bid from Atlas had been rejected by the RFU due to a lack of information over funding, but further negotiations have led to the consortium submitting an acceptable offer.
A statement from administrator Julie Palmer and reported by Worcester News said: “Following a complex process, we are now able to progress the sale of Worcester Warriors and associated assets to Atlas Worcester Warriors Rugby Football Club Limited (‘Atlas’).
“We can confirm that contracts have been exchanged with Atlas. This is an exclusive contractual position and Atlas are committed to completing this transaction as early as possible and will share with both the rugby community and local community their plans for the club’s future.
“Due to the confidential nature of this transaction, we have been unable to provide this update any earlier but have appreciated the ongoing interest of supporters, staff and related organisations.
“We are delighted to see that there is a clear plan in place to deliver both rugby and many other exciting community-focused initiatives to Sixways befitting the fabulous facilities and which will entertain the extensive support base. We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the women’s team who are being readmitted to the Allianz Premier 15s next season.”
Worcester’s former Premiership rival, Wasps Rugby, is set to compete in the Championship next season after satisfying RFU requirements. Wasps was placed into administration in October and it emerged in December that the club’s debts totalled £95m (€106m/$117m).
Worcester has been given until February 14 to provide assurances that it will be able to compete in the Championship next season.