Worcester's demise is 'English rugby's darkest day' – Steve Diamond

Worcester's demise is 'English rugby's darkest day' – Steve Diamond - GETTY IMAGES
Worcester's demise is 'English rugby's darkest day' – Steve Diamond - GETTY IMAGES

Steve Diamond, Worcester Warriors' director of rugby, denounced "English rugby's darkest day" on Wednesday as the company responsible for paying the West Midlands club's players was liquidated in a brutal 22-second High Court hearing.

On a day of high emotion, during which the stricken club were left on the brink of expulsion from the Gallagher Premiership, Diamond, alongside Worcester captain Ted Hill, took aim at the game's administrators, accusing Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union of standing idly by as “a tragedy of professional rugby” unfolded.

In response to a 58-word statement from Simon Massie-Taylor, the Premiership Rugby chief executive, Hill simply said: "Your 'thoughts' aren’t what was needed."

“This is the darkest day for English rugby," Diamond added. "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 background. There are a privileged few who have jobs but there are so many left without them.

“Players, coaches, commercial staff I am sorry. I said a while back that this could be a tragedy of professional rugby union and that is where we are.” Nick Easter, the Warriors' defence coach, also accused the club's co-owners, Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, of being "cowards".

Worcester's liquidation at the the High Court, for which the club had no representation, was finalised in 22 seconds on Wednesday afternoon, after which the RFU confirmed that it will "continue to speak to the administrators, and potential buyers, over the next 24 hours to understand the possibility of a buyer taking over the club in time for the men’s team to participate in the Premiership during the 2022-23 season."

It is understood, however, that this remains unlikely, with Worcester's best-case scenario seemingly reintegrating into the Championship at the beginning of next season, with definitive clarity expected in the next few days. Premiership chiefs were locked in long negotiations with the administrators on Wednesday night.

"We are also liaising with the administrators in relation to discussions with potential funders, which may enable the University of Worcester Warriors women’s team to continue in the Allianz Premier 15s even if the men’s team cannot continue to participate this season," Bill Sweeney, RFU chief executive, added.

"This is a very sad day for rugby in England. Our thoughts are with all of the Worcester Warriors players, staff and supporters."

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said it was a 'very sad day for rugby' - PA
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said it was a 'very sad day for rugby' - PA

Should Worcester, as expected, be expelled from the Premiership, then a fresh row over their lucrative P share, worth £9 million, will be triggered.

That share entitles them to a percentage of top-flight revenues, including television money, even if they are in the Championship, but their rivals could now seek to strip them of it.

Telegraph Sport understands that preliminary investigations are ongoing among clubs to determine whether a clause in the Premiership’s regulations would allow Worcester's P share to be redistributed among the clubs for a symbolic £1 due to Worcester's administration status, although it is understood that the shares have a set rate and that any re-sale would go towards the repayment of HMRC debt.

A number of Worcester players, some of whom assembled at Sixways on Wednesday for one final training session, have already attracted the interest of other Premiership clubs, while Duhan van der Merwe, the Scotland wing, has agreed a move to Edinburgh. Joe Batley, Andrew Kitchener and Alex Hearle are thought to be subject to interest from London Irish, with both Saracens and Northampton looking at hooker Curtis Langdon.

The Saints have also explored the possibility of fly-half Fin Smith expediting his move which was due to start at the beginning of the 2023-24 season. Prop Santiago Medrano has also been courted by several Premiership clubs.

"A ridiculously emotional day," Batley said after the final training session at Sixways. "We had seen it coming but with it actually being here now... it's a whole different story, isn't it.

"It still hit just as hard. We arrived at 9am on Wednesday morning and we stayed until 12. The mood changed massively when the news came in. Being together again, we did some fitness so that we're still sharp for whatever happens next. It was a sombre atmosphere by the end; a lot of high-fives, handshakes and hugs.

Worcester Warriors' Joe Batley - Worcester Warriors' administration faces darkest days - Zac Goodwin/PA Wire
Worcester Warriors' Joe Batley - Worcester Warriors' administration faces darkest days - Zac Goodwin/PA Wire

"We're not sure what this means for each individual. After going through everything together we each now have to go our separate ways and do what's best for each of us. That's us done. We have nothing to go in for."

Massie-Taylor said on Wednesday: “The thoughts of everyone at Premiership Rugby are with the players, staff and fans of the Warriors on what is another distressing day for everyone involved with the club.

“This is a sad day for rugby – the Warriors have been a huge part of the Premiership since Cecil Duckworth CBE led them to their first promotion in 2004.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Telegraph Sport revealed that Julie Palmer, of Begbies Traynor, the joint administrators of Worcester, had admitted that a takeover was “unlikely” to be concluded in the coming days.

Takeover talks for Worcester Trading Ltd will continue but Palmer conceded any transaction was “sufficiently complex” to prevent a deal being struck in time for the club to retake the field for their Premiership Rugby Cup fixture against Exeter Chiefs on October 19 and their Premiership game at Bristol three days later.

Telegraph Sport understands, too, that hopes of the land situated on the outskirts of Sixways being included in any takeover deal are growing, a stipulation that was considered vital to Jim O'Toole's consortium.