"This is the darkest day for English rugby... the ship has sunk" - End of the road for Worcester Warriors
"It's ended up like the Titanic, sadly."
Worcester Warriors, in its current iteration, is no more. The future of the 151-year-old club is in serious doubt but their players and staff are to have their contracts terminated.
This act follows part of the club being wound up in the High Court. Warriors are suspended from all competitions and four senior players have already gone on loan to Bath, with others now free agents so available to sign for any club.
His Majesty's Revenue & Customs [HMRC] has been pursuing Worcester for unpaid tax of around £6m. Judge Nicholas Briggs has instructed that WRFC Players Ltd, through which players and staff are paid, should be wound up. However, a winding-up petition against WRFC Trading Limited has been suspended. At the joint hearing, today, the club had no representation in court.
Steve Diamond, Warriors now former director of rugby, took to social media to lament a hammer blow to a club founded in 1871. He declared:
'This is the darkest day for English rugby. We thought we could turn the tanker around but it’s ended up like the Titanic, sadly. The ship has sunk, the captains are nowhere to be seen. The RFU/PRL band played in the back ground. There are a privileged few who have jobs.'
As of 2pm today [Wednesday, October 5] the English RFU and PRL, who run the Premiership, have not made any comment or statement on the matter.
Due to a CVC Capital contract agreement signed with the Premiership in 2018, each club was due to get a £9 million share of a money pool. There are a number of outstanding questions as to where that money went, at Worcester, and if there is any left.
'An unbelievably sad day' - Ted Hill
Worcester Warriors captain Ted Hill released a lengthy statement on a day when it looks as if his time at the club is officially over.
"What an unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester," he began.
"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.
"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 Solomon’s 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 they 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."
The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) shared its' extreme sadness at the Worcester Warriors news and called for 'lessons to be learnt'.
'We stand with all Worcester employees,' the RPA proclaimed. '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.'
UPDATE: At 3:30pm, the RFU released the following statement from their chief executive Bill Sweeney:
'This is a very sad day for rugby in England. Our thoughts are with all of the Worcester Warriors players, staff and supporters.
'The RFU will continue to speak to the administrators, and potential buyers, during the course of the next 24 hours to understand the possibility of a buyer taking over the club in time for the men’s team to participate in the Gallagher Premiership during season 2022/23.
'We are also liaising with the administrators in relation to discussions with potential funders, which may enable the University of Worcester Warriors women’s team to continue in the Allianz Premier 15s even if the men’s team cannot continue to participate this season.
'The RFU will continue to support community rugby in Worcester and is fully committed to ensuring local academy opportunities are provided for pathway players.'
It looks likely that the club will be relegated to the Championship, even if a new buyer comes in. The club's current administrators are battling to have that RFU ruling "disapplied", though.