The chink of light in latest statement about Worcester - Andy Goode
The RFU and PRL may have suspended Worcester for the rest of this season but they should leave the door ajar and reflect on their own role in this saga. On the face of it, the club’s Gallagher Premiership relegation has been confirmed after a statement from the RFU but a slight chink of light does remain in that respect with an appeal possible if it can be shown “there was no fault insolvency”.
That is the right approach for me as it allows all options to remain on the table and makes discussions with potential investors easier while also allowing the other clubs in the league to plan for the weeks and months to come.
This news came after a meeting of the RFU’s club financial viability Group and the question has to be asked as to what that group has been doing in recent years. Surely club accounts and dealings should be coming under more regular scrutiny.
A fit-for-purpose ‘fit and proper person test’ would be one thing but that body’s powers and operations should be looked at in the same way the salary cap manager was in the wake of the Saracens scandal.
A more hands-on approach and greater transparency are needed again. That won’t help Worcester at the moment but there has been some positive news for them with Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham being removed as directors of MQ Property Co Ltd and the administrators becoming receivers over Sixways as well.
There are still assets there, a stadium, land and more, and a lifetime’s work has gone into building that club. The RFU and PRL have the ability to at least help to protect that and the question is whether the will is there to do so. Nobody is going to come out and say they are happy about the Warriors being in this situation and I have no doubt everybody does feel for the people involved, but the reality is that some parties would be better off if they fall by the wayside.
It doesn’t sit well but if the same sized pie is split between fewer hungry mouths, each of them gets a bigger slice. There have been murmurings in the past that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if one or two clubs were to go bust and now that is coming to pass.
The Premiership is a collective, with unanimous backing from all 13 shareholder clubs needed for change to happen, but it is interesting to see what happens now one of the group is in the most severe predicament possible.
Worcester captain Ted Hill was understandably underwhelmed by Premiership Rugby CEO Simon Massie-Taylor’s statement that “the thoughts of everyone at Premiership Rugby are with the players, staff and fans” but he is the figurehead and there are twelve other club owners. “Your ‘thoughts’ aren’t what was needed” was Hill’s response on social media.
The RFU and CEO Bill Sweeney’s statement on Wednesday struck a similar tone. While it mentioned continuing discussions with the administrators, there seemed to be more than a hint of resignation that the race was run.
An extension of Worcester’s suspension from the Premiership for the remainder of the 2022/23 season followed on Thursday but there were chinks of light in the latest statement and there is now time to explore all avenues.
There will still be a concern that PRL may acquire Worcester’s P-Share, which would clearly make the club a much less attractive proposition to investors. Still, you can only hope the administrators are afforded the time to do their job without that happening.
A club that has given so much to so many over the years deserves a chance to find its way back after a period of severe mismanagement. In the meantime, the authorities need to ensure procedures are in place so that this can never happen again.
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