Worcester have been set two deadlines amid a warning from the Rugby Football Union that they will be suspended from all competitions on Monday if they are unable to fulfil three criteria.
The Warriors have until 5pm on September 26 to provide evidence that they have the required insurance cover in place, the funds to meet payroll and a meaningful plan to lift Sixways out of crisis.
Worcester are fighting for their future burdened by debts totalling over £25million amid growing anger felt towards owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, who have been accused of asset stripping the club.
In addition, Worcester must prove by 12pm on Thursday the capability to stage Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership match against Newcastle after last Sunday’s first home game of the season only took place because of the efforts of staff, many of whom have not been paid their salaries for August.
“The RFU, Premiership Rugby and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport have been seeking assurances from the Worcester owners regarding funding and potential new ownership proposals for several weeks,” an RFU statement read.
“We are grateful to the staff at Worcester 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.
“The RFU has set the same conditions for the matches this weekend to go ahead as were in place for the previous weekend.
“These must be met by noon on Thursday September 22 as, in particular, Newcastle will be travelling on Friday September 23.
“However, all parties remain concerned that the lack of available funds will not allow the club to be sustainable over the long term.
“In particular, the RFU is aware that insurance cover is only in place until midnight on Monday September 26.
“Therefore the RFU has written to Worcester to confirm they will be suspended from all competitions, including the Gallagher Premiership, Allianz Premier 15s and Allianz Cup, if the club cannot provide evidence of insurance cover in place, availability of funds to meet the monthly payroll and a credible plan to take the club forward, by 5pm on September 26.”
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) September 18, 2022
If Worcester fail to provide the assurances over financing and insurance sought by the RFU, they have been told that suspension could lead to full removal from all leagues.
It is the most dramatic development in the saga to date as patience runs out with owners Goldring and Whittingham, who have yet to sell the club to a new buyer despite repeated claims that a deal is imminent.
“The number of false promises to staff may well be in double figures now in less than a month. Wonder who will get the blame this time. ‘Computer said no’ maybe,” assistant coach Nick Easter said on Twitter.
It was a reference to Goldring and Whittingham previously stating that the reason players and staff had not received their salaries for August was because of a computer error at the bank.
An HM Revenue and Customs winding-up petition – or compulsory liquidation – is due to come into force on October 5 as another critical deadline looms.
Welcome back, Jonny 😉 pic.twitter.com/yiukboWFpB
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) September 21, 2022
Worcester have even been forced to summon two players out of retirement to enable Wednesday night’s Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm to go ahead.
Academy backs and transition coach Jonny Goodridge, formerly a full-back at Gloucester in a career that also included spells at Leeds and Bristol, played his last competitive match nine years ago.
Th 41-year-old is joined on a bench that includes only seven replacements by flanker Matt Gilbert, who retired at the end of last season with tier-three side Cinderford his final club, although he also had spells at Worcester and Bath.
Four years younger than Goodridge, Gilbert hung up his boots in April to run a pizza business and he is one of five guest players in the 22.