Worcester owners hit back at local MPs amid threat of automatic relegation
Worcester’s owners have hit back at calls from four MPs urging the government to put the club into administration – a move that would condemn the Warriors to automatic relegation from the Premiership, the Guardian understands.
Co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham claimed a deal with one set of buyers is “moving at an especially rapid pace” after the MPs called for administration as soon as possible. That would likely result in relegation because according to the Rugby Football Union’s regulations, the new season started last Saturday even though the Premiership does not kick off until Friday.
On Monday morning, the four Worcestershire MPs – Robin Walker, Harriett Baldwin, Rachel Maclean and Mark Garnier – urged the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to trigger administration and called on rugby authorities to “facilitate any option which allows the club to stay and play in the top-flight”, seemingly in the belief that the RFU’s deadline for the start of the season had not passed. The strongly worded statement declared that “enough is enough”.
Goldring and Whittingham insisted on Monday night that they have three interested buyers and claimed none of them want the club to be put into administration. The former chief executive Jim O’Toole was said to be involved in a consortium which has expressed an interest in buying the club on the condition it was put into administration.
“We are disappointed to read the statement made by four local MPs which calls for the [DCMS] to force Worcester Warriors into administration,” they said. “We would like to make it clear that we have kept the DCMS fully informed about the financial situation at Worcester Warriors. They are aware of the options which are on the table to save the club together with the disastrous implications posed to the club by any administration.
“The DCMS knows that three sets of buyers are in discussions with us. All three buyers are serious propositions and all the deals being considered would avoid the club going into administration. One of the buyers is moving at an especially rapid pace.”
The DCMS, for its part, is said to have limited scope to place the club into administration, urging any prospective buyers to engage with the owners and the union.RFU regulations state that if a club are placed into administration once the season has begun then they will be relegated to the league below for the following season. Had Worcester been put into administration before 3 September the sanction would have been a 35-point penalty.
It is also understood that Worcester would not be rescued by the current moratorium on relegation. The club’s only hope of a reprieve would be to make representations to the RFU according to its “no-fault insolvency” clause which makes reference to a pandemic as an extenuating circumstance and enables the union to waive punishment.
Earlier, Baldwin cited the “appalling mismanagement” of the current owners, while Walker declared: “I believe the best solution for players, staff and the club itself is rapid action on the part of the DCMS. I am hopeful that the proposals we have had for new investment and new owners can move forward rapidly and we are calling on Premiership Rugby and the RFU to facilitate any option which allows the club to stay and play in the top-flight. It is clear to us now, after all the chaos and worry of the last week that the best route to that is now through administration.”