Tears, TVs and pot plants: The Worcester clearout finally begins

Fans - Worcester Warriors suspended from Gallagher Premiership - ANDREW FOX
Fans - Worcester Warriors suspended from Gallagher Premiership - ANDREW FOX

Worcester Warriors have been placed into administration after the Rugby Football Union confirmed the club had been suspended from all competitions for failing to meet a 5pm deadline to prove they had the necessary funding in place to take the club forward.

The club now faces a possible points deduction and relegation to the Championship unless they can prove no-fault insolvency.

In the meantime, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said they would apply to the court for administrators to be appointed as work begins to improve the club's financial health. A DCMS spokesperson said: “We have worked around the clock with the club’s directors, Premier Rugby Ltd and the RFU to explore all possible options but during this time the owners have been unable to secure new investment for the club.

“In order to give the club the best possible chance of survival, and to protect a significant taxpayer investment, we have today agreed to the directors’ request to place the club into administration.”

The RFU had earlier confirmed that Worcester, and Worcester Women, had been suspended from all competitions after failing to meet a deadline to prove their insurance cover, availability of funds to meet the monthly payroll, and a credible plan to take the club forward. In a statement the RFU said they would work with Premiership Rugby and the Government to establish the next steps for the club and the competitions they play in.

Premiership Rugby, meanwhile, have confirmed that Worcester's game with Gloucester, scheduled for this weekend at Kingsholm, will not take place.

News that the club will be placed in administration will actually offer some comfort to many of the staff’s employees in that it offers the club a chance to move on from the limbo in which it has operated since June when the scale of the current issues under owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring first became obvious. Worcester were issued with a winding-up petition over an unpaid tax bill last month.

Gloomy day at Sixways sees clearout

It had been a quiet, gloomy day at Sixways up until 5pm. Staff had been told to collect their belongings and vacate the premises by 4.30pm so that the caretaker – who lives on site and was also evicted last night – could lock up by 5pm.

Some of the players involved in Saturday’s emotionally charged win over Newcastle came in for some R&R with the club’s medics while they still could. But the place already had the feel of a ghost town. Telegraph Sport was invited in for a coffee by team manager Luke Broadley, who said there had been a staff meeting in the morning with another one planned for 8pm last night via Zoom. “We can’t just sit on our hands,” he said.

Staff member - Worcester Warriors suspended from Gallagher Premiership - ANDREW FOX
Staff member - Worcester Warriors suspended from Gallagher Premiership - ANDREW FOX

“We need a plan for if and when we come back so we’ll all continue to work, only from home rather than here at the club. We hope to be back in the next couple of weeks.” That seems to be the overriding hope of staff and players, although they readily admit they have no real idea of what is going to happen, with the owners long since having stopped communicating with them.

One potential lifeline is the former Worcester owner Jim O’Toole and his business partner, the former London Irish player James Sandford. “We are relieved to hear of the DCMS announcement that the club is now in administration, and look forward to engaging as quickly as possible with the appointed administrator to share our vision for the club and community going forward,” the pair said last night in a statement. “We respect the legal processes that need to be followed in terms of the marketing of the club to potential buyers in the interests of the creditors and are ready to fund the administration process.”

In the meantime, they are trying to make the best of a bad situation, deploying gallows humour wherever possible. Jamie Hamment, the club’s head of medical services, stopped by for a chat and noticed we were sitting in near darkness. “Leccy already been turned off, has it?” he quipped.

Worcester Warriors staff - Worcester Warriors suspended from Gallagher Premiership - ANDREW FOX
Worcester Warriors staff - Worcester Warriors suspended from Gallagher Premiership - ANDREW FOX

Prop Murray McCallum also came in to say goodbye. He was eating a Pot Noodle. “No club chefs around,” he pointed out. Murray said he might head back to former club Edinburgh to train for a bit. He wasn’t sure about his team-mates.

As the afternoon wore on, a few members of staff came out clutching bits and bobs – a pot plant, a television. Some marshals came to check the padlocks were secure. Then, as it got closer to the appointed hour, a small group of fans gathered to say farewell and make their feelings known.

One of them, Roger Jones, had stuck a note to the door of the club’s reception with the famous line from the WWI poem ‘For the Fallen’. ‘At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we shall remember them.’

A sign on the door to the reception of the Sixways Stadium, home of Worcester Warriors Rugby Club. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2022. Worcester are set to be suspended from all competitions if they do not meet a Rugby Football Union deadline of 5pm on Monday showing they possess required insurance, are able to meet payroll and have a "credible plan to take the club forward" - PA
A sign on the door to the reception of the Sixways Stadium, home of Worcester Warriors Rugby Club. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2022. Worcester are set to be suspended from all competitions if they do not meet a Rugby Football Union deadline of 5pm on Monday showing they possess required insurance, are able to meet payroll and have a "credible plan to take the club forward" - PA

If that felt a little over the top – equating the potential demise of a rugby club with the deaths of millions of soldiers on the battlefield – it was only a reflection of the depth of feeling in these parts for their club and the way in which it has been treated by its current owners. 

Pat Daniel, 66, first watched Worcester play rugby back in 1964 when he was just eight years old. He arrived bearing flags and signs but seemingly with little hope that the club he has supported for the best part of six decades could be saved. “I fear it’s already too late,” he said.

His wife Paula, 61, an accountant who has previously worked for the county council and the police, muttered darkly that she would “love to take a proper look at the books”. But she added she was a bit more hopeful than her husband. “Best case scenario is we go into administration, lose the points, lose a few star players, and build from the Championship again.”

“We haven’t got a clue,” admitted back row Matt Kvesic, who manfully came out to speak to the assembled media when he did not have to. “We haven’t had any correspondence from the owners or directors. We’ve been left completely in the dark. But I’m trying to stay positive. Saturday’s match showed what a tight group we are and I’m confident that when this is resolved we’ll be ready to go as a group. I don’t think this is the end – it can’t be. It’s not just the men’s team we are talking about here, it’s the women’s team, the junior section. This is a community club.”

Ollie Lawrence, the Worcester and England centre, explained how difficult the last few weeks had been for Worcester’s players while speaking to The Rugby Pod this week.

“We've done numerous things to put pressure on the owners to speak and tell us what's happening," he said. "If they're open and honest and just tell us 'it's going to be difficult for the next month' or 'you might be getting paid late this month', it makes things a lot easier for boys to make plans with their mortgages or whatever they have to do. Not everyone is in that fortunate position where they can take money out of a savings account to use it for this month, or have expendable money where it doesn't make a difference for a month or two.

"There are players in the team who live month to month and those are the people  we have to think about. That was the difficult situation, there were a lot of players with families and kids stressing and we just wanted to know what was going on. And we haven't been in the know for a very long time.”