Worcester Warriors players free to leave club after WRFC Players Ltd liquidation confirmed at High Court
Winding-up petition concerned unpaid tax bill of £6m, and result sees contracts of Worcester's players immediately terminated; "This is the darkest day for English rugby. We thought we could turn the tanker around but it's ended up like the Titanic, sadly" - head coach, Steve Diamond
Last Updated: 05/10/22 5:32pm
WRFC Players Ltd - the company which holds the contracts of Worcester Warriors' players and some staff - has been liquidated in the High Court, meaning players can now depart the club.
The winding-up petition heard on Wednesday concerned an unpaid tax bill of approximately £6m, and the result sees the contracts of Worcester's players immediately terminated.
Worcester now also expect to have their suspension from the rest of the Gallagher Premiership season and enforced relegation to the Championship confirmed by the RFU.
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The club also fear that Premiership Rugby (PRL) may next buy the Warriors' P-share - at £9.8m - as one of England's elite 13 clubs, which would cut access to central funding.
Four Worcester players have already departed on loan in Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valeriy Morozov, all to Bath, with others now sure to follow them out of the door having become unemployed, joined by members of staff.
"This is the darkest day for English rugby. We thought we could turn the tanker around but it's ended up like the Titanic, sadly," Worcester head coach Steve Diamond tweeted after the news.
"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."
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.
Robin Walker, Worcester MP, said at the news: "Gutted for Worcester Warriors players today, outraged the directors didn't even bother to turn up to court. Urging administrators to do all they can to get the club through this & restore professional rugby to Sixways & urging PRL & RFU don't take the P share & give us a route back."
Worcester owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham have become deeply unpopular figures among players, staff and fans for allowing the club to sink into such a precarious position.
The duo have also been mocked for appearing to blame the squad and supporters for the crisis that has engulfed Sixways in an extraordinary statement issued on Friday.
RFU CEO Sweeney: A very sad day for rugby in England; Warriors playing in Prem again this season unlikely
RFU CEO Billy Sweeney said in a statement...
"This is a very sad day for rugby in England. Our thoughts are with all of the Worcester Warriors players, staff and supporters.
"The RFU will continue to speak to the administrators, and potential buyers, during the course of 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 Gallagher Premiership during season 2022/23.
"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.
"The RFU will continue to support community rugby in Worcester and is fully committed to ensuring local academy opportunities are provided for pathway players."
The RFU's statement read on: "In relation to the men's team playing in the Premiership this season, while the RFU continues to work with the administrators and potential buyers, due to the complexity of the situation, this currently appears unlikely.
"We expect to be able to make a definitive statement on this in the coming days, and will work with Premier Rugby Limited to reshape the fixtures for the Gallagher Premiership if necessary.
"In the event a buyer can be secured for the club as a whole, because of the insolvency event suffered by the club, the men's team suffer automatic relegation into the Championship. The administrators, on behalf of the club, have applied to have this relegation disapplied and this will be determined in due course."
Simon Massie-Taylor, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said: "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 Sir Cecil Duckworth lead them to their first promotion in 2004.
"We will continue to work with the RFU, DCMS and the administrators, to see if a long-term solution can be found."
Worcester captain Ted Hill: An unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester
"What an unbelievably sad day for everyone in Worcester," Warriors skipper Ted Hill said on Twitter.
"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.
"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 been 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."
Worcester, Scotland and British and Irish Lions wing Duhan van der Merwe tweeted: "It's been one hell of a ride Worcester Warriors. Gutted."
'Worcester in a very precarious position'; 'The ball now passes to the RFU's court'
Sky Sports News reporter James Coles outside the Royal Courts of Justice...
"It leaves Worcester in a very, very precarious position, because after all, what is a rugby club without its players? And that rugby club is already suspended from the Premiership by the RFU until further notice.
"It decreases the chances [of a takeover] in one sense, because you are now buying a club without any players. But I imagine the two parties who the administrators are talking to would have been aware of the situation and the likely outcomes.
"What happens now is the ball passes to the RFU's court because Worcester are suspended from the Premiership, but they could now be expelled from the Premiership if the RFU decides to do so, and therefore Worcester would be relegated.
"Interestingly, the operating arm of Worcester, WRFC Trading Ltd, they are in administration and had their winding-up petition suspended, so that will be pushed back while the administrators try and find a buyer.
"They say they are talking to two consortiums as it stands, but that buyer will now most likely be buying a club in the Championship without any players."