Worcester relegated from Premiership after partial liquidation

RFU says decision would allow ‘space and time’ to secure a deal for the long-term future of the club

Worcester have been relegated from the Gallagher Premiership and suspended from the Premiership Rugby Cup for the remainder of the 2022-23 season, the Rugby Football Union has confirmed.

The Warriors’ Premiership future had been left in doubt after the club was partially liquidated on Wednesday, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) pursuing unpaid tax in the region of £6 million (€6.82 million).

Wednesday’s ruling instructed that WRFC Players Ltd, a subsidiary of WRFC Trading Ltd through which players and some staff are paid, be wound up. A winding-up petition against WRFC Trading Ltd, which remains in administration, has been suspended.

Club captain Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valeriy Morozov had already joined Bath on loan. Following the latest ruling, other players had their contracts terminated, along with members of staff, which saw British and Irish Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe return to former club Edinburgh.

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Administrators Begbies Traynor are seeking a buyer for WRFC Trading Ltd and are talking to two consortiums.

The RFU said the decision to suspend the team would allow “space and time” to prioritise the work to secure a deal for the long-term future of the club and was encouraged by the progress made by the administrators, including relating to the land around Sixways Stadium.

If investors can be secured, Worcester will restart in the Championship for the 2023-24 season, the RFU confirmed, but the club can appeal the decision if it can show there was ‘no fault insolvency’.

“Following a meeting of the RFU’s Club Financial Viability Group today, the RFU can confirm the suspension of Worcester Warriors from the Gallagher Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup for the remainder of the 2022-23 season,” the RFU said in a statement on Thursday evening.

“It has taken the decision to suspend the team in order to prioritise the space and time to work with Begbies Traynor to support the prospect of securing a deal with the right investor, giving the club the best chance for a long-term sustainable future.

“As the club no longer has staff and players on contract and with many seeking alternative employment, the decision has been made to focus on how the club can be viable over the long term.

“This is a complex situation and any potential investors and management will require due diligence and approvals from the RFU and PRL [Premiership Rugby Ltd].

“A condition of any potential deal will include a requirement for the payment of all rugby creditors including any outstanding salaries owed to staff, players and coaches.

“The administrators are in discussions with several potential investors and it is expected they will also be planning for long-term sustainability.”

By taking the decision, the RFU believes it gives certainty over protecting the integrity of the Premiership, allowing clubs and their teams to plan for the rest of the season.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor said: “Our priority is to find the best long-term solution for Worcester Warriors and we are encouraged by the progress the administrator has made in such a short period.

“However, what is clear is that it will take much more time to get the right solution in place for the club.

“Whilst we appreciate this decision will be disappointing to many people close to Warriors, we value the certainty this decision brings to the other Premiership clubs.

“We will now continue to work with administrators, the RFU and other key stakeholders to find the best outcome.”

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney added: “All parties continue to work together to provide the best possible outcome for Worcester Warriors over the long term.”

The administrators remain hopeful a deal can be reached to see the club return to action next season.

Begbies Traynor spokesperson Julie Palmer said: “Whilst disappointing that there will be no men’s rugby at Sixways this season I fully appreciate the position of RFU and PRL.

“I am reassured they are continuing to work with us in a positive way to try and achieve a rescue to enable rugby to take place next season in a properly structured approach to enable the long-term viability and success of Worcester Warriors.”