Worcester’s top-flight future was left hanging by a thread on Wednesday night as the Rugby Football Union set the Warriors’ co-owners a 5pm Monday deadline to prove that they had the insurance, infrastructure and funds to move the beleaguered club forward.
Alongside the Monday cut-off to provide evidence of insurance cover, availability of funds to meet the monthly payroll, and a credible plan for the future, the Premiership side also face another deadline on Thursday for their Saturday fixture at home to Newcastle Falcons.
For that to go ahead, the RFU again requires that Worcester provide assurances in relation to the receipt of a General Safety Certificate from the local authority and written confirmation of medical provision by noon on Thursday, as was the case for last Sunday’s loss to Exeter Chiefs. Newcastle plan to travel down to Worcester on Friday for the game.
An RFU suspension may progress to Worcester’s full removal from the Premiership, Allianz Premier 15s and Allianz Cup. Suspension, however, would not prevent a change of ownership, with owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham currently attempting to sell the club.
A statement from Whittingham at 2pm on Sunday suggested heads of terms would be agreed within 48 hours, although that deadline has now passed. Worcester still face an HMRC winding-up petition – also known as compulsory liquidation – which is due on October 5.
In a statement the RFU praised the hard work of Worcester’s staff, who are still waiting for the remainder of their August salaries. “We are grateful to the staff at Worcester Warriors for their hard work in being able to provide the required information to allow the games to go ahead last weekend and in the week ahead.”
However, the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport added that they “remain concerned that the lack of available funds will not allow the club to be sustainable over the long term” while adding that the RFU was aware that Worcester’s insurance cover is only in place until midnight on Monday.
‘Humour and hard work get us through’
Matters did not look any rosier for Worcester on the scoreboard on Wednesday night despite another performance of heart and graft in the face of adversity, with the Warriors falling to a 49-21 defeat at Gloucester in the Premiership Rugby Cup. Worcester are the current holders of this trophy, defeating London Irish after extra time in Brentford in May. How things can change in a matter of months.
“It’s week to week, day to day at the moment,” said academy coach Chris Morgan after the loss at Gloucester, adding that his players “absolutely” want to take on Newcastle on Saturday.
“I know no more than anyone else [about the financial situation]. All we can focus on is day to day and working hard. All guns ahead, we’re into Newcastle this weekend. Humour and hard work get us through and we embrace those things.”
To Worcester’s credit, the game was still in the balance at half-time, despite the jumbled nature of their matchday squad, which featured Mat Gilbert, a former England deaf international; Jonny Goodridge, a 41-year-old coach; and Ollie Wynn, the scrum-half who was taken in by England centre Ollie Lawrence after he was made homeless when the club’s academy house was repossessed. The Warriors also had no No 19 in their squad, with only 22 players available.
Gilbert, 37, was at one stage the only deaf professional sportsman in England and played for Scarlets, Bath and Worcester during his career, while also winning 11 international caps for the England Deaf side before retiring at the end of last season and starting up a pizza business.
Goodridge, meanwhile, joined Worcester as backs transition coach of the club’s academy in 2020 after having made 72 Premiership appearances during his career with Gloucester, Yorkshire Carnegie and Bristol, scoring nine tries.
Gloucester also provided all of Worcester’s staff and non-selected players with tickets for the fixture at Kingsholm. “[A] lovely gesture that is hugely appreciated,” said Luke Broadley, the Worcester team manager.
Gloucester shot into a 14-0 lead at Kingsholm courtesy of tries from Jack Reeves and Arthur Clark, before Worcester gave it a real lash, with two scores of their own through Harri Doel and Finn Theobald-Thomas. Reeves, Jack Clement, Tom Seabrook and Freddie Thomas (twice) all added tries after the break – with George Barton immaculate off the tee – as the hosts avoided a potential banana skin.
Alex Wills added a late consolation for Worcester, in what might prove to be their last professional score for some time.