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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'This is far, far worse and far more serious'

By Josh Raisey
Worcester Warriors/ PA

Former Harlequins CEO Mark Evans has labelled yesterday “probably the worst day in the history of Premiership Rugby,” after Worcester Warriors were suspended from all competitions with immediate effect.

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The Warriors were suspended after failing to meet a Rugby Football Union deadline requesting proof of insurance cover and funding for the club’s monthly payroll. Soon after this was announced, Evans highlighted in a five-Tweet thread on Twitter how this situation differs from clubs that have found themselves in financial difficulty in the past, saying this is down to “a complete failure of oversight.”

Evans questioned where Premiership Rugby and the RFU were in the club’s sale in 2018 and how the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport sanctioned it, as he pulled no punches.

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He wrote: “Probably the worst day in the history of Premiership Rugby. Other clubs have gone into administration but they were “simple” business failures. These happen in all sectors. But Worcester were sunk by a complete failure of oversight and the lack of the most basic due diligence.

“Back in 2018 the club was sold to a group who could only raise the funds by selling & leasing back the stadium. Effectively they bought the club with its own assets. They were not asked to show proof of funds despite Worcester (like many clubs) consistently losing significant money.

“In the next few years they burnt through the CVC money, torched the taxpayers money from DCMS, created multiple companies to move assets around, paid themselves handsome salaries and to top it all borrowed money from an elderly Cecil Duckworth. Where was the due diligence?

“How could a man banned from being a trainee solicitor remain as owner of a Premiership club? How could a network of loans and companies be set up – all on the public record – and no action be taken? Where were PRL & RFU? Who within DCMS sanctioned this? Why were the media so quiet?

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“At the very least the RFU should initiate an independent inquiry and publish the report in full. This isn’t Richmond or London Welsh or possibly Wasps – upsetting though they were. This is far far worse and far more serious. I’m not holding my breath.”

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “While it is the responsibility of each business owner to manage their individual finances, we will look at learnings from this situation to see what regulation can be put in place to provide all parties with more financial transparency.

“Rugby is a relatively young professional sport and it has been widely recognised that clubs have been facing financial challenges even before Covid.

“Successful professional leagues are vital for the wellbeing of the whole game.

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