Worcester Warriors: What happens next and the story of the club's demise

Worcester Warriors have been suspended from all competitions Credit: PA

The partial liquidation of Worcester Warriors has been branded "English rugby's darkest day" - so what happens next and what led to the club's demise?

In a brutal 22-second court hearing on Wednesday a company which holds the club’s players’ contracts - WRFC Players Ltd - was wound up, effectively leaving the stricken team without any players.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been pursuing the Warriors for unpaid tax in the region of £6million.

They had been suspended from all competitions in September after they failed to meet a Rugby Football Union (RFU) deadline requesting proof of insurance cover and funding for the club’s monthly payroll.

What does this mean for the club and players?

The liquidation means that player and staff contracts are automatically cancelled.

It's likely to ignite a mass exodus of players, with Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valeriy Morozov having already joined Bath on loan.

More players are expected to follow them out of the door having become unemployed, along with members of staff.

Worcester rugby director Steve Diamond described Wednesday as "the darkest day for English rugby".

"We thought we could turn the tanker around but it’s ended up like the Titanic, sadly. The ship has sunk, the captains are nowhere to be seen.

"The RFU/PRL band played in the background. There are a privileged few who have jobs."

How did Worcester end up in trouble?

The Warriors are saddled with more than £25million of debt, and players and staff at the club had not received their full wages, with the lack of funds leading to major operational shortcomings.

The club was on the brink of administration in August and a winding up petition had been issued to the club by HMRC over an unpaid tax bill of £6 million.

The sum was loaned to Worcester during the pandemic to help with the rising cost of living and lost income from Covid-19.

Towards the end of August, non-playing staff were told they would only receive a 'portion' of their monthly salary.

They were paid just 65%.

A sign attached to the fence surrounding Sixways Stadium, home of Worcester Warriors. Credit: PA

Warriors fans were then given a glimmer of hope as the club announced it had "agreed the terms of the sale of the club" to an undisclosed buyer on 13 September.

But less than two weeks later, on Monday 26 September, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced it had placed the club into administration and the Warriors were suspended from all competitions with immediate effect.

They had been given a funding ultimatum to provide evidence they had the required insurance cover in place, the funds to meet payroll, and a meaningful plan to lift Sixways stadium out of crisis.

However on Wednesday, after weeks of uncertainty, Judge Nicholas Briggs made an order winding up the company, leaving players and staff unemployed.

What happens next?

On Thursday 8 October, the RFU suspended the club for the rest of this season in order to give certainty to the competition.

The club can appeal the relegation if it can show its insolvency was not their fault.

The RFU said it will continue to speak to the administrators, and potential buyers, to assess the possibility of a buyer taking over.

Why are so many Premiership clubs struggling?

The pandemic’s impact cannot be ignored, but Worcester cannot hide behind Covid as a catch-all excuse.

Rising wages for top players and coaches, despite salary-cap curbs, a constant contest to lure in punters and continued battles to boost match excitement are all major factors.

Another club which is struggling is Wasps Rugby Football Club, which is based in Coventry.

On Tuesday, Wasps Holdings Limited confirmed a second notice of intention to appoint administrators had been filed, revealing that 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.

Wasps are also facing up to having to repay a £35million bond which had help finance the club’s relocation to Coventry during 2014, while failure to secure the finance needed to prevent administration could result in automatic relegation from the Gallagher Premiership.

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