English rugby club Worcester suspended amid financial issues

September 26, 2022 GMT

LONDON (AP) — English Premiership rugby club Worcester Warriors were suspended from all competitions on Monday after plunging into financial turmoil amid debts totaling more than 25 million pounds ($26.7 million).

The English Rugby Football Union gave Worcester a deadline to show proof of insurance cover and funding for the club’s monthly payroll. The RFU also wanted evidence of a “credible plan to take the club forward.”

The crisis-hit Warriors, whose men’s team includes Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe and England center Ollie Lawrence, had not responded to those requests by 5 p.m. local time. That prompted the RFU to suspend Worcester’s men’s and women’s teams with immediate effect.

It was later confirmed by the government that Worcester was placed in administration — a form of bankruptcy protection — “to give the club the best possible chance of survival, and to protect a significant taxpayer investment.”

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“We met with players and staff last week to explain why this action would be necessary,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said, “and regrettably without assurances in place, we have had to take this action to protect everyone’s best interests.”

Part of the debt is an unpaid tax of at least 6 million pounds ($6.4 million) amid growing anger toward owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, who have been accused of asset-stripping the club from central England whose men’s team has been in the top-flight since 2015.

Worcester’s Sixways Stadium is closed. Club staff were given until Monday afternoon to collect belongings, with no indication when or if it will reopen.

Premiership Rugby confirmed Worcester’s league game at Gloucester on Saturday will not take place.

Worcester has played three top-flight league games, winning one and losing the other two.

Its first home game of the season, against Exeter last Sunday, was given the green light to go ahead only two days earlier because volunteers offered to cover stewarding and medical requirements.

For a domestic cup fixture against Gloucester on Wednesday, Worcester resorted to calling up a player who retired at the end of last season and runs a pizza shop, and its 41-year-old academy coach who last played a competitive match in 2013.

Because the Warriors have no public liability insurance, Worcester’s squad face training off-site when the players eventually reconvene.

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