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Gloucester-Worcester cancellation: Full 26-page verdict published

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

A fascinating chain of correspondence – including a disagreement on what was allegedly said between the respective club owners – has been revealed in the full ‘reasoned decision’ published on Tuesday by Premiership Rugby regarding the circumstances of the recently cancelled Gloucester versus Worcester Gallagher Premiership.

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A Sports Resolutions investigation into the cancelled March 25 match resulted in the April 21 decision to award a match result of 20-0 and five league points to Gloucester as a consequence of Worcester cancelling the fixture at Kingsholm.

Last month’s initial verdict decision was accompanied at the time by the promise to publish the written judgement and that has now happened 19 days later, Premiership Rugby offering up a riveting 26-page document that explained how the situation over tighthead unavailability unfolded at Worcester and led to the match cancellation. 

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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots

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The judgement outlined how the Warriors had six tightheads registered for the 2021/22 campaign, but one retired due to injury earlier in the season and another had suffered a long-term injury. It then explained what happened in the lead-up that week to the trip to Kingsholm that resulted in “consequently, on the afternoon of the match, Worcester had no available tighthead props”.

This was despite Worcester team manager Luke Broadley contacting all the other top-flight clubs the day before via WhatsApp to see could loan players be recruited to head off their impending emergency.

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According to the judgement: “By mid-Thursday, March 22, Worcester had concerns about the risk that they would not have sufficient registered front row players available for the match the following day. Loaned front row players could be registered up to 5pm on the day of the match. 

“Understanding the risks of unavailability at tighthead, at 12.31pm on Thursday, Luke Broadley circulated a message to a WhatsApp group comprising the Premiership club team managers: ‘We have illness and covid in camp. If anyone has any loose or tighthead props available could you please drop me a message please.’ It appears that all but three of the recipients opened that message before 1pm and a further recipient opened it just after 3pm. However, no response was received from any. 

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“Broadley did not telephone, or otherwise contact, any other club to seek a loan player. However, he asked two Worcester development coaches, Johnny Goodridge and Chris Morgan, to telephone the Championship clubs they had previously coached (Hartpury and Cornish Pirates respectively), to see whether they had any players to loan; but (he said) they came back, before he contacted PRL, to say that they did not have any available props.”

Sections 32 of the 66 section report also noted the communication between the respective Gloucester and Worcester club owners on the day of the match: “At 10.49am, Martin St Quinton (Gloucester’s chairman) messaged Jason Whittingham (Worcester’s co-owner) asking Worcester to do everything they could to raise a team as ‘if we call the game off it will cost us £250,000’. 

“He offered to lend a front row player or two if that would help get the game on. Whittingham responded: ‘We want to play and are doing all we can to field a team. Steve (Diamond) due to update us shortly.’ He also telephoned St Quinton at about 11am to say that Worcester were struggling and unlikely to field a team.

“St Quinton’s evidence was that he made clear to Whittingham that cancelling a match was very serious, given that a large crowd was expected and the match was to be televised. St Quinton was clear that Whittingham did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of a cancellation until he had received Phil Winstanley’s email of 12.24pm; but Whittingham, although he accepted that he might have said that, denied that that was in fact the case. 

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“At about 3.30pm (after the match had been cancelled), they spoke again. What was said is not agreed. St Quinton’s evidence was that Whittingham told him he had been ‘outvoted’ by Colin Goldring (the other Worcester co-owner) and Diamond, who did not wish the match to be played because Worcester had an important Premiership Cup match against Bath the following Wednesday.

“Whittingham accepted that he may have said he had been ‘outvoted’ – although that was not in fact the case – but he strongly denied suggesting that the match had been cancelled because of another fixture on the following Wednesday.”

  • Click here to read the full reasoned decision from Sports Resolutions
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