Worcester Warriors have never been one of the big clubs in Rugby Union, often hovering around the mid to lower positions in the table each season. Last season they finished 11th above Newcastle Falcons and Bath, but despite that low league position their fans had optimism for the upcoming campaign when they won the Premiership Cup back in May.
However, that hope was lost over the summer and replaced with fear when news came out that the club was in some serious financial trouble. Despite the worries though both the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL) announced that the Worcester Warriors would be taking part in this year’s Premiership.
But what is exactly going on and what is the impact?
What has been going on with Worcester Warriors?
The drama around Worcester Warriors all began when news broke in mid-August that they were in discussions with HMRC about an unpaid tax bill that may well have escalated to around £6 million. It initially began around £2.3 million in taxes that were due from the club’s 2020 accounts, but then they were late submitting their 2021 accounts and fines will have escalated that initial cost.
Due to the amount owed out, this then led to players and staff not being paid on time whilst the club and its ownership looked at ways to try and generate much needed revenue and keep the club afloat. The situation then got political when local MPs began to get involved and called for the owners of the Worcester Warriors to put the club into administration, stating it was the best way to help ensure people got paid and give the Premiership club the best chance at survival.
The two directors of WRFC Trading Limited who are responsible for the ownership and running of Worcester Warriors, Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, declined to file for administration though. Instead, opting through several other businesses they have to their names to look at ways of generating the revenue needed to try and draw this drama to a close. One of which was putting another sports club they own, Morecambe FC, up for sale.
When they took over the club initially, Morecambe FC were not in a great place, but under their ownership and investment, the club reached League One for the first time in its history. So the value of the club will no doubt be worth more than their initial buying price, but whether it is enough to clear the amount owed to HMRC is unknown and as yet, the club hasn’t sold.
With plans in place to try and save the club and assurances made that wages would be paid in a timely manner, this was the point where their inclusion in the new season was announced. But then there are reports that not all staff have been paid wages due yet, which could lead to more protests for the owners to relinquish ownership of Worcester Warriors.
What are the implications?
Worst case scenario is that Worcester Warriors could end up going into liquidation and being stripped apart and no longer existing as a Premiership Rugby team, just like Rangers nearly a decade ago when they were kicked out of the Scottish Premier League which shows it can happen even to big clubs with massive histories.
The more likely outcome though is that the club could go into administration which would lead to a points deduction of 35 points, which would almost instantly lead to the Worcester Warriors finishing in last place in the Premiership. Meaning the Premiership Rugby cup would be the best chance they have at any kind of silverware, which they could challenge for having strengthened with signings such as Curtis Langdon from Sale.
Despite the looming points deduction though, fans shouldn’t be too disheartened because after a couple seasons that have been impacted by COVID-19, relegation for the 2022-23 season has been suspended again. Meaning it wouldn’t matter receiving a points deduction during this campaign because even if Worcester Warriors finish dead last, they’ll still be a Premiership team next season.
This will be a shining light through these dark times with fans likely to be happy to settle for a rocky season as long as they can pull together what is needed to get the club back into a positive financial state. It may require new ownership to get them there, the current owners could also save the day if they manage to sell Morecambe FC and pay off their debts or at least get some kind of repayment plan structured that will allow the Warriors to get them back into a positive position.
The season opener for the Warriors
With their inclusion confirmed, Worcester Warriors will start their season away to London Irish on Saturday 10th September as a 3 PM kick-off. They will, however, have to play in last season’s kits as bills owed to kit manufacturer O’Neills haven’t been paid, so despite the new kit design being released, players will be unable to play in it.
Due to off-field issues Worcester Warriors are clear underdogs in this tie with London Irish the favourites to win between the two, especially when the Warriors have just one win from he last six games they have played. But it could be a closely contested game if the Warriors players are fired up to give the fans something to celebrate during some of the club’s darkest times.
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