Worcester suspended and placed under administration

Worcester suspended and placed under administration
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Sixways Stadium
Worcester is banned from the Premier League, Premier 15s, Under-18s Academy Cup and Allianz Cup with immediate effect

The Worcester Warriors have been suspended from playing and placed under administration after failing to meet an ultimatum to fund Rugby Football Union.

The financially troubled club had to provide proof “credible” plan for the future until 17:00 BST on Monday.

The men’s team will now be banned from the Premiership and the women’s team from the Premier 15s.

Administration means the men’s team could be sanctioned with either a points deduction or relegation.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), one of the main guarantors of a loan by Sport England, said it had agreed to the directors’ request to place Worcester in administration.

The loan, believed to be around £15million, was part of the Government’s Sport Survival Package during the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement added that this was “to give the club the best possible chance of survival and to protect a significant taxpayer investment”.

The development could attract new investment, as the club’s former chief executive Jim O’Toole leads a consortium interested in saving the club but was unwilling to advance until it was taken into administration.

Warriors owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring said managing the club was “the best solution to protect the interests of the company and ensure the best chance of a solution that saves the club” after failing to secure “urgently needed funds”.

“We are grateful to DCMS and Sport England as managers of the Covid-19 loan scheme for accepting our application to place the club in administration,” they said said in a statement.external link

“Both the club and DCMS will continue to coordinate their efforts to find a rescue for the club if there is a chance it can be rescued.

“Administrators will review all bailout options for some or all companies as offers are made, while ensuring public funds are protected.”

Commenting on Worcester’s suspension, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney added: “We had to take this action to protect everyone’s best interests.

He added that the news was “incredibly difficult for fans, staff and players” and thanked them for “working tirelessly over the past few weeks to allow the Games to continue.”

What happens next with Warriors is unclear but Sweeney is hopeful a buyer can be found as soon as possible so the club can potentially resume games when the suspension is lifted.

“While it is the responsibility of every business owner to manage their individual finances, we will be reviewing the lessons learned from this situation to see what regulations can be put in place to provide greater financial transparency to all parties,” Sweeney said.

The ongoing Worcester saga

Following Worcester’s suspension, Premiership Rugby have confirmed their scheduled Premiership match in Gloucester will not go ahead now, adding that it will “continue to support them where we can at this next stage”.

The Cherry and Whites also offered their support, tweet:external link “Our thoughts are with the players, staff and supporters of the Worcester Warriors. We hope they return to the Premier League soon.”

Warriors aren’t the only club struggling with financial woes and the Midlands side Wasps have announced theirs Intent to appoint administrators to “protect the interests of the association”.

“Wasps and the entire rugby family stand together with all the players, staff and supporters of Worcester Warriors,” the club said tweeted,external link after Worcester’s suspension was confirmed.

The club’s failure to meet the RFU’s deadline was not unexpected communicated to employees in a letter to collect their belongings by 4.30pm BST when the gates to Sixways Stadium would be locked and the club’s insurance policy expired at midnight.

With access to the stadium and its facilities no longer available, players can now train on local pitches while their future is settled. Stadium Warden Lee Morrow and his wife have to leave their apartment above the West Stand.

Late payments, partial payments, £25m in debt

Despite the previous two threats of suspension, the Warriors staged their first two home games of the Premiership season as many staff worked unpaid and capacity at Sixways was reduced to 4,999 due to safety regulations.

In those on Saturday, the Warriors won an emotionally charged game 39-5, while the club’s women’s team – the University of Worcester Warriors – have won their two Allianz Cup games.

The Warriors’ ban follows weeks of financial turmoil since they were served with a dissolution notice from His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs over an unpaid £6million tax bill, with the club’s total debt estimated at £25million.

Players were paid late and staff paid only part of their August salaries, while others received none at all.

Despite assurances from the owners, the remainder of those salaries – 35% – remained unpaid and no official confirmation of their announcement of an agreement to sell the club nearly two weeks ago has ever followed.

The owners had rejected previous calls by local MPs to put the club into administration, prompting Worcester MP Robin Walker to ask DCMS in Parliament last week to approve the move.

The closure of Sixways also impacted non-league football club Worcester Raiders, who play their home games at the stadium.

Kvesic ‘confident’ of determination

Matt Kvesic
Warriors flanker Matt Kvesic celebrated with fans after his win over Newcastle in what may be the last game for some time

After news of Worcester’s suspension but before it was announced the club would go into administration, flanker Matt Kvesic told BBC Sport he was “confident” their financial woes would be resolved.

“I’d be lying if I said I was surprised – I think so [RFU suspension] something we knew was coming,” said the four-time England international.

“We’re rugby players, we want to play rugby and not having that opportunity is pretty tough.

“It was quite emotional and exhausting at times, but we stuck together.

“I’m confident that when that’s settled – because I’m really confident it will be – we’ll be ready to go into that first game whenever that’s the case.

“Neither of us are administration experts but it looks like it might be what’s best for the club – obviously that has its pitfalls too, but for me it’s the quickest solution to getting us back up and running as a functioning club should the be way forward.”

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