Wasps follow Worcester in suspension from Gallagher Premiership

Another of the great clubs of English rugby union is closer to collapse tonight. ITV News' Ben Chapman reports

English rugby’s flagship domestic competition is in meltdown with Wasps following Worcester by being suspended from the Gallagher Premiership.

The four-time Premiership champions also face a “likely” move into administration and had already withdrawn from Saturday’s scheduled league fixture against Exeter at Sandy Park.

In a statement, the Rugby Football Union said: “The RFU’s Club Financial Viability Group has met this evening and confirmed that Wasps are suspended from the Gallagher Premiership.

“We appreciate this is a very difficult time for Wasps players, staff and supporters who will be concerned at news that the club is likely to enter administration.

“The RFU will continue to work with the club, PRL (Premiership Rugby) and any potential administrator or future investors to find the best possible outcome for the club.”

It is understood that Wasps would need to reapply for the suspension to be lifted if they can demonstrate means and commitment to pay rugby creditors.

It is another colossal blow for the English domestic game as chronic financial issues continue to engulf its professional arm.

Worcester have been suspended from Premiership action for the rest of this season, with relegation to follow, after the club’s partial liquidation.

Wasps, six times English champions and twice winners of the European crown. ITV News' Ben Chapman reports

Wasps Holdings Limited recently confirmed a second notice of intention to appoint administrators had been filed, revealing talks were at “a relatively advanced stage” with possible investors in the face of a winding-up order from HM Revenue and Customs for £2million in unpaid tax.

Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is understood to be one of those interested parties.

Wasps also face having to repay a £35million bond which had helped finance the club’s relocation to Coventry during 2014.

Wasps’ only hope of avoiding following Worcester out of the Premiership if they go into administration would rest on them proving a “no fault” solvency event because of the global pandemic.

It is understood that Wasps players and staff – who now face uncertain futures – were informed of Wednesday’s developments during a lunchtime meeting.

Wasps Kiran Mcdonald Seran catches the ball during a Gallagher Premiership match. Credit: PA

“Since filing a notice of intention to appoint administrators on 21st September, we have been working tirelessly to secure the long-term future for Wasps Holdings Limited, and all of the organisations and clubs that sit within the Group,” a WHL statement read.

“Negotiations to secure deals that will allow the men’s and women’s rugby teams, netball team and the arena (Coventry Building Society Arena) and associated business to move forward are ongoing.

“However, it has become clear that there is likely to be insufficient time to find a solvent solution for the companies within the Group, and it is therefore likely that they will enter into administration in the coming days with a view to concluding deals shortly thereafter.

“While the companies within the Group all represent strong and viable businesses, the reality is that they have insufficient cash at this time to continue to fund operations until these complex negotiations have concluded.

“We have therefore been asking potential funders and investors to provide bridging finance to provide enough time for a solvent solution to be found. Regrettably, this has not been possible to date, although we will continue to pursue this until the very last opportunity.

“In light of the current situation, we have therefore taken the decision to withdraw the Wasps men’s team from this Saturday’s league fixture against Exeter Chiefs.

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make and we recognise that this will not only impact on our players, staff and supporters, but also Exeter Chiefs and the wider rugby community.

“However, we strongly believe it is the right course of action when, at this time, we are unable to meet our regulatory requirements in the absence of fully concluded deal negotiations.

“We understand that this news will be disappointing and concerning for everyone involved. Our immediate focus will be on ensuring that all of our players and the staff of Wasps and the arena are fully updated and given the support they need.

“While these are challenging times, we remain confident that new owners will be found that will allow the clubs and businesses within the Group to move forward.”

Two-time European champions

Wasps have been ever present in the Premiership since the competition began 25 years ago, winning it in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008.

They were also crowned European champions twice, in addition to achieving one European Challenge Cup triumph, and have fielded some of England’s most well-known players during rugby union’s professional era.

The 2003 World Cup-winning England squad included five Wasps players – Lawrence Dallaglio, Josh Lewsey, Stuart Abbott, Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley.