Debt-laden Worcester told by RFU they face suspension over safety concerns
The Rugby Football Union has told Worcester Warriors they will be suspended from the Premiership if the financially stricken club cannot provide assurances by midday on Friday that they can safely stage matches at Sixways. It is also understood that suspension could lead to Worcester being permanently kicked out of the Premiership if assurances over the club’s finances are not provided.
The RFU has grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of information coming from the current owners of the club over the details of the finances and potential sale of the club and have issued a strict deadline. In particular, the RFU is concerned that the local authority has not provided Worcester with a general safety certificate to stage matches at Sixways, but worries extend to medical provisions for players amid overdue payments for staff and bills for suppliers.
The ultimatum comes on another desperate day for the club with Sunday’s first home fixture of the season against Exeter now hanging by a thread. On Wednesday a deadline set by suppliers, including those who provide medical provisions, and staff for overdue payments was not met and it is understood that on Thursday wifi and emails went down while it also emerged the club is unable to pay for players’ MRI scans. The disillusionment among staff is palpable with the club mired in upwards of £25m of debt.
An RFU statement read: “The RFU, PRL [Premiership Rugby Ltd] and DCMS has been seeking assurances from the Worcester Warriors owners regarding funding and potential new ownership proposals for several weeks. All parties are concerned that the lack of available funds will not allow the club to hold matches safely for players and spectators, and for ongoing medical provision for players.
“In particular, the local authority have not yet provided the club a General Safety Certificate to allow matches to be played at Sixways. All parties must balance the needs of the club to have time to raise funds to safely hold matches, with the need for certainty for supporters, players and support staff of all teams for the matches due to be held at Sixways this weekend.
“The RFU has written to Worcester Warriors to confirm they will be immediately suspended from all competitions, including the Gallagher Premiership, Allianz Premier 15s and Allianz Cup if assurances as to the ability to safely hold matches at Sixways Stadium are not provided by 12 noon on 16 September. This includes evidence that the local authority has issued a general safety certificate, and written confirmation of medical provision. Any suspension may be lifted once the club has more security of funding and is able to evidence its ability to hold matches safely.”Earlier in the day, Worcester had to deny the club had been put into administration after an embarrassing blunder by the government suggested otherwise. Supporters were left fearing the worst after receiving a letter from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport stated Worcester had been put into administration.
The club responded insisting that was not the case and that the owners remained hopeful of completing a deal to sell the club. The DCMS letters, it turned out, had been sent by mistake – though the very fact that the club’s directors had asked for them to be prepared in the event of administration is hardly reassuring for supporters. The DCMS clarified the situation, acknowledging it had “used lines that had been prepared in the eventuality of Worcester Warriors going into administration”.