Demise of Worcester is English rugby’s ‘darkest day’, says Steve Diamond

Director of rugby Steve Diamond has labelled the partial liquidation of Worcester Warriors the “darkest day for English rugby”.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing the club, which is suspended from all competitions, for unpaid tax in the region of £6million.

Judge Nicholas Briggs instructed that WRFC Players Ltd, a subsidiary of WRFC Trading Ltd through which players and some staff are paid, be wound up.

A winding-up petition against WRFC Trading Ltd, which remains in administration, has been suspended.

“This is the darkest day for English rugby,” Diamond wrote on Twitter.

“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 back ground. There are a privileged few who have jobs.”

Club captain Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valeriy Morozov have already joined Bath on loan and other players will have their contracts terminated, along with members of staff.

Because they had not been paid for September, all players were able to leave on October 14, meaning that liquidation has simply brought their departure forward by nine days.

Hill wrote on Twitter: “What an unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester.

“A club who meant so much to everyone has gone the direction none of us wanted it to. A place where I played my rugby from 14 years of age and met so many people who mean so much to me and my family.

“There’s been so many people to thank throughout my whole journey, starting off with Chim Gale and Nick Tisdale, who were my first coaches at Worcester and helped me not only to become the player I am but also the person I am. Also Alan Solomons, who gave me my first Premiership start and later went on to give me the amazing opportunity of captaining my home town club.

“To all those guys I am massively appreciative. Then to the current staff, who have helped guide this group of players through such a difficult time and have done it with such poise and elegance throughout all the highs and lows.

“To my team-mates, thank you for all the memories we have made together, they will be times that I will never forget.

Ted Hill
Ted Hill reflected on an ‘unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester’ (David Davies/PA).

“Then finally to the fans of Worcester, this is obviously not where any of us wanted this to end up, but the way you have supported us and the staff through this whole saga has be unbelievable and we’re forever grateful for that.

“There will be nothing written for the people who put us in this situation but to the governing bodies of rugby, something needs to change so that this doesn’t happen to any club again. Thank you Worcester for everything.”

Administrators Begbies Traynor are seeking a buyer for WRFC Trading Ltd and are talking to two consortiums, but any successful takeover will bring with it the urgent task of rebuilding the squad.

Worcester’s matches against Gloucester and Harlequins were cancelled on Monday and, while they remain suspended from all competitions, they could be restored to the Gallagher Premiership if a buyer is found by the middle of this month.

No definite decision on relegation has been made by the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, although the chances of continuing in the top flight appear remote considering the lack of time to agree terms with new investors.

The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) called for “lessons to be learnt” from the situation at Worcester.

“The RPA is extremely saddened to hear of the liquidation of WRFC Players Limited,” a statement read.

“We stand with all Worcester employees. Our immediate thoughts are with all the players and staff who have lost their jobs today due to this terrible situation.

“We will continue to support our members in all ways that we can throughout this hugely challenging and difficult time, as we have done since it became clear that the club was in financial trouble.

“It is clear that lessons must be learnt from this situation and that players must be fully involved and consulted in any discussions regarding their futures and the future direction of the professional game.”