The rugby union was accused of ‘failure on an epic scale’ as the recent collapses of Worcester Warriors and Wasps came under parliamentary scrutiny on Thursday. Julian Knight, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, suggested to Bill Sweeney, the chief executive of the governing body, that he should consider his future at the helm of the sport.
“If you look behind you,” Knight told Sweeney, who sat alongside representatives from Premier Rugby and the Rugby Players Association during the hearing, “you will see people from worcester, and they are furious at your failures. You failed in this case, as did the RFU. Shouldn’t you look at your own position? »
Knight also said he would refer the matter of Colin Goldring’s ownership of Worcester and Morecambe Football Club to the Serious Fraud Office and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion. He told the hearing that Goldring allegedly forged a claim to be a solicitor when he initially passed the English Football League administrators’ test at a time when he was facing an investigation into his mismanagement of 8 million euros (£6.8 million) from a customer. silver. Goldring was then disqualified in May by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, news of which came in July, nearly three months before Worcester went into administration.
Much of the committee’s attention was focused on testing people’s form and suitability for rugby. Although Goldring and his partner, Jason Whittingham, have bought Premier Rugby, it is the RFU who are responsible for carrying out the checks and balances of the sport. Implementing a continuous fitness and suitability test “seems pretty obvious,” Knight said, “when you have this kind of situation where someone has, frankly, stripped one of your main clubs We’ve seen these issues in other sports, didn’t it occur to you to do this?
Sweeney responded with a timeline of events, in which the imperative to save the club outweighed obvious questions about ownership. “They assured us that new financial measures were being considered,” Sweeney said of a meeting with Whittingham and Goldring in July. “We also share the frustration and somewhat anger that there have been many missed deadlines, missed promises and failed guarantees.”
Knight stammered his disbelief that Sweeney should take assurances from such people, but Premier Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor at one point quietly mentioned the role played by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and sports, who lent these people. even (in Sweeney’s words) “objectionable characters” over £15m of taxpayers’ money during the pandemic.
Sweeney also added, “One of the key learnings that will come out of this very sorry episode…is that a one-time binary test of owners and admins is not enough to prevent future misbehavior or mismanagement. It is necessary to have regular and continuous conditional reviews in terms of performance and suitability.
After being told he was “asleep on the job” by Knight, Sweeney pointed out that the RFU and Premiership Rugby was currently formalizing the terms of a new Professional Gaming Agreement (PGA) which would help protect the sport against further cases like Wasps and Worcester.
Another outstanding issue, as the directors try to maneuver what remains of the club towards a successful sale, is the question of their stake in the Premiership, the all-important part P. Carol Hart, chief executive of the Worcester Warriors Foundation, spoke movingly in the previous morning session about the impact of the club’s collapse on the local community.
She argued that the work of the foundation, which affects tens of thousands of people, would be in jeopardy without P. Robin Walker, the local MP, hailed the solidarity of other fans, even other international unions, who have offered their support, but argued that the real test will be whether Premier Rugby allows Worcester to retain their stake.
“I fully understand that some potential bidders want to keep this asset in the administration process,” Massie-Taylor said in response later. “I don’t think it sends a particularly strong message to the rest of our clubs – that you can go into administration and keep the assets while getting rid of the liabilities.”