A company which holds Worcester Warriors Rugby Club player contracts has been wound up, a development that is expected to initiate an exodus of players from Sixways.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing the Warriors for unpaid tax in the region of £6million.
While Worcester are in administration, the company that holds player and some staff contracts – WRFC Players Ltd, a subsidiary of WRFC Trading Ltd – had been operational and was the subject of HMRC’s action.
Judge Nicholas Briggs made an order winding up WRFC Players Ltd at an Insolvency & Companies Court hearing on Wednesday.
Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valeriy Morozov have already joined Bath on loan and others will follow them out of the door having become unemployed, along with members of staff.
Because they had not been paid for September, all players were able to leave on October 14th, meaning that liquidation has simply brought their departure forward by nine days.
Administrators Begbies Traynor are seeking a buyer for WRFC Trading Ltd and are talking to two consortiums, but any successful takeover will bring with it the urgent task of rebuilding the squad.
Worcester’s matches against Gloucester and Harlequins were cancelled on Monday and while they remain suspended from all competitions, they could be restored to the Gallagher Premiership if a buyer is found by the middle of this month.
No definite decision on relegation has been made by the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, although the chances of continuing in the top flight appear remote considering the lack of time to agree terms with new investors.
The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) called for “lessons to be learnt” from the situation at Worcester.
“The RPA is extremely saddened to hear of the liquidation of WRFC Players Limited,” a statement read.
“We stand with all Worcester employees. 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.”