Skip to content

Worcester Warriors to rebrand as Sixways Rugby and withdraw bid to enter Championship next season

Worcester Warriors have been rebranded as 'Sixways Rugby' and formed a partnership with fourth-tier side Stourbridge RFC; Worcester's owners confirmed they have withdrawn from their proposal to play in the RFU Championship for 2023/24 season

Image: The name Worcester Warriors will no longer exist in English club rugby after the new owners announced a rebrand

Worcester Warriors have withdrawn their proposal to play in the Championship next season and are to change the club's name to Sixways Rugby, new owners Atlas have confirmed.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) issued Wasps and Worcester Warriors a "final deadline" to meet conditions that would allow them to compete in the Championship next season, which was initially set for December 12 before being pushed back to February 14.

Worcester's new owners had yet to be approved by the RFU, while Jim O'Toole and James Sandford's Atlas consortium confirmed on Thursday that they had withdrawn their bid to join England's second tier.

Worcester Warriors
Image: Worcester Warriors announced they will no longer try and pursue a place in the RFU Championship next season

O'Toole told Sky Sports: "For the last seven months of us trying to acquire the assets of the Worcester Warriors - the land, the club, the stadium - we have been under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and have not been able to share our plans or detail with the fanbase.

"We have said from day one we will be honest, open, and transparent with everything we are doing. Today was a big drop of some fairly substantial points we wanted to share with people.

"The reason we have made that decision, is after long discussions with the RFU, we are at an impasse over three or four key points in the insolvency agreement that would be the basis of our participation in the Championship.

"We have felt from day one that the terms of that contract were over-onerous and represented overreaching on behalf of the RFU in terms of putting us into special measures and controls over the development we need to implement to make the project work and any borrowing we may do against the land which, as we start off, is all incumbered with no debt.

Also See:

"We don't think we can sign that agreement as it is currently framed and that was the driving force behind the decision.

"The consensus was a fresh start and a clean break from the past would be a good idea.

"We know it will come as a shock to people who have only ever known the Warriors in their twenty-odd years of existence but things change and we think this is the time to do it.

"It is still rugby, it is still in the same place and some people have accepted it and others have immediately had a very emotional and, I think it is fair to say, angry reaction to it."

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Former Worcester Warriors centre Ollie Lawrence said in September being put into administration cannot be allowed to happen to other teams in the Premiership

Following the announcement from the new owners, the RFU released a statement saying: "The RFU has been clear that its priority was to enable Worcester Warriors to play in the Championship and Worcester Warriors Women in the Premier 15s in a sustainable way.

"The information required has been asked for repeatedly and deadlines were extended to provide the best possible chance for this to happen.

"The RFU will now consult with the local rugby community over the proposed relocation of Stourbridge RFC and the change of name.

"Our priority is to ensure the best interests of rugby and the rugby community are preserved.

"The RFU maintains its commitment to running the Midlands academy which it took over in November and the continuation of Worcester Warriors Women."

The relocation of the club and the change of name would both require RFU approval.

The announcement also drew reaction from former Worcester players such as Ted Hill, who said on Twitter: "Terrible news coming out of Worcester today regarding Worcester Warriors.

"Not only for staff and players who are still owed substantial amounts of money, but also for the fans who have lost their team. Lots of memories and fun times had!"

What happens next?

Sixways Rugby will instead link with neighbouring Stourbridge RFC, who currently sit bottom of the National League 2 West, with members of the fourth-tier side set to be given the chance to vote on the proposed partnership at a special general meeting.

"The name [Worcester Warriors], sadly, will disappear," O'Toole told BBC Hereford & Worcester. "We are rebranding as Sixways Rugby. This decision will clearly upset and disappoint a number of people, but the sad fact of life is the Worcester Warriors brand and the Worcester Warriors business has gone.

"We're starting afresh. It has a certain degree of negativity and toxicity to it, especially over the events of the past couple of years and we believe it is time for a new start and that new start will be manifested in the brand Sixways Rugby."

A Stourbridge statement said: "Atlas Group is proposing a long-term investment into our playing infrastructure to enable our teams to play competitively at all levels, to grow our club to becoming a Championship level club (and beyond) to provide a pathway to senior competitive rugby for all, to provide additional player support for players to cascade at all levels in the men's and women's game."

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport said: "This is devastating news for rugby fans across the West Midlands. The Government has done everything it can to protect Worcester Warriors, including through financial support during the pandemic.

"Despite repeated assurances from the Atlas Consortium, we are deeply disappointed that fans will no longer be able to support their club in the Championship - either next season or beyond.

"We fully support the RFU in its objective to obtain all necessary information with regards to the club's sustainability and ownership when participating in their competitions."

Could Wasps play at Sixways?

Wasps were placed into administration and immediately ceased trading in October, although are set to take their spot in the Championship next season after their takeover was approved in December by the RFU.

The club has yet to announce where their proposed home ground for the 2023/24 season will be but said in a statement last December that "a groundshare agreement has been reached with a Midlands venue - which will be announced in the near future - to host its home games".

Telegraph Sport reports Wasps are on the verge of finalising a deal to play at Sixways, having previously held home games in Coventry, although any application would need to be ratified by the RFU.

Around Sky