Wasps Application Flies Through, But Worcester Plan Stalls At The Source
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Whilst most of the country have been focused on the European and domestic pause in the football fixture schedules to allow the first-ever winter World Cup out in Qatar to take place, Rugby Union fans have had plenty to concern themselves with, given the struggles that both Wasps and Worcester have had in recent times.
Both clubs have found themselves in financial difficulties in recent times and they were each previously suspended and removed from the Premiership back in October given their debts and inability to pay wages correctly to staff and players alike following their fall into administration.
With new offers in for both clubs from interested parties, each had recently applied to the Rugby Football Union for readmittance for the coming 2023/24 league campaign, but Worcester were rejected in their attempt, whilst Wasps were more successful and have been told that they now have approval to return – but only at Championship level where fans can still bet on rugby online, and even then, it is subject to compliance with a number of future imposed conditions and strict adherence to them.
On the Worcester front, as that is the greater concern, their debts totalled in excess of £30 million when they went into administration and they were subject to a bid and significant interest from former Warriors Chief Executive Jim O’Toole and his Atlas consortium. Prior to their rejection, Atlas had accused the RFU of attempting to impose ‘onerous operational conditions’ on them during the takeover process. Following the RFU’s decision on Friday, Atlas again criticised the governing body and called for Government intervention into the matter and stated clearly they were now ‘reviewing legal options’ in an attempt to force the matter.
The RFU has stated that it had ‘put forward a number of conditions’ for all prospective buyers and they did include commitments that land around Sixways would not be sold on to raise funds, and further that there was a ‘swift’ payment of all rugby creditors.
“The bidders, selected by the administrators of the insolvent WRFC Trading Limited, have informed us that they are not prepared to meet these conditions, and therefore the RFU board was unable to approve their application. The RFU will now work with the administrator to enable alternative bids that would secure professional rugby at Sixways and to work together in a timetable to enable that to happen.”
Begbies Traynor, joint administrators, commented that they have ‘offered an urgent meeting over the weekend between the RFU and Atlas Worcester Warriors to try and resolve the position.’
The RFU’s rejection here has automatically triggered the renewal of the alternative main bid that was tabled on October 27, a consortium led by former Warriors director of Rugby, Steve Diamond, and the club’s old main sponsor, Hartlebury-based business Adam Hewitt, who was previously an unnamed partner.
Diamond told the BBC:
“Adam and I dusted ourselves down and made sure our proposition was ready to go if anything happened. It came down to the respective valuations. Ours was slightly less than the other consortium’s. But Adam and I have a lot of experience in business – and I also have my experience over the last 20 years of running rugby clubs. I was always working on the basis this was going to be a long haul, it was not going to be a quick fix, and anybody coming in who thought that would fall over. Was I surprised at what happened? Yes and no really. The RFU have been hauled over the coals for having no, or virtually zero compliance in place, in their fit and proper persons’ process – and they have now quite rightly made it more rigorous.”
In a further twist at the end of the week, Atlas stated that if the RFU continued with its stance, it would seek to conclude a deal ‘without the approval of the RFU and without returning elite level rugby to Worcester.’
That may have complications of its own when it comes to the fanbase, but one thing is for sure, this will undoubtedly run and run.