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'We're really frustrated, we haven't been paid - we need answers'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Worcester players and staff have flooded Twitter with a coordinated series of video messages after it emerged on Friday morning that they still haven’t been paid despite repeated assurances that they would receive their August 31 wages and will start the Gallagher Premiership season at London Irish on September 10.

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Leading players such as Fin Smith, skipper Ted Hill, fellow England international Ollie Lawrence and forward Joe Batley were among the raft of players to post emotional videos explaining what the club means to them and calling for the right action to be taken by the co-owners to save Warriors.

However, the most poignant of all the videos published came from recruitment analyst Simon Norris, who is still commuting from Wales to work at Worcester despite not being paid. He outlined how his commitment to the role was such that last year he kept to himself a cancer scare and just continued to work to try any help improve the Warriors.

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“My name is Simon Norris, I am one of the analysts at Worcester,” he began in footage filmed at Sixways. “Everyone in the pro game knows me as Chuck because of my surname. I came to Worcester because after a great experience at Exeter and Bristol, I felt I could help make a difference to Worcester. I’m still fully committed to that.

“Even though all staff and players are not getting paid, I am still driving all the way from Wales giving 110 per cent for the club. Not many people know this but during last season I had a cancer scare and got through it, pretty emotional. Nobody knew, I kept it a secret and I kept coming to work every day giving 110 per cent because I love the game, I love rugby.

https://twitter.com/SimonNorris12/status/1565624141725765633

“I want to make a difference in whatever team I work in. It’s pretty emotional. Players put their bodies on the line every week. We just want to get paid. Staff are fully 110 per cent committed to this club they give so much time and effort, way above what they get paid for. We just want this club to work and everyone to pull together from the top down to the bottom… just do the right thing.”

While Premiership Rugby officially stated at the 2022/23 launch at Twickenham on Thursday that it would be a 13-team league and that Worcester would play their first match as scheduled in London on September 10, tournament CEO Simon Massie-Taylor warned: “Worcester are not out of the wood yet, let’s be frank about that.”

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That warming has quickly come home to roost as Worcester players and staff still hadn’t been paid on Friday, sparking fears that this really is the end for the Warriors. Young out-half Smith, who has been linked with a switch to Northampton, said in his video message: “I’m just here at Sixways. Amazing memories here, joined the club when I was 13 and they have looked after me right the way through.

“There have been some great times on the pitch, great times off the pitch, winning the Prem Cup, some amazing home wins last year. There is an amazing fan base here at Worcester, great coaching staff, great backroom staff and a real community club. We are just really frustrated now. We haven’t been paid. We don’t feel like we are getting what we deserve as a group so we need answers.”

Club captain Hill, who attended the Thursday league launch at Twickenham, added: “Hi, this is just a quick video to explain what Worcester means to me. It’s my home, it’s my home club, I have grown up here, played rugby all my life, it’s a passion of mine. It is a shame what is happening at the club, not just for the players but for the staff, for the supporters.

“The supporters are the most passionate people I have seen, I love playing in front of them every weekend home or away… they’re shouting and they are making the most noise. It is the best feeling in the world when you are playing in front of them and it will be such a shame to see this get wasted. I’m hoping the right things can be done.”

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Midfielder Lawrence said: “I have been part of the Warriors family since the age of 14. Like many, this is now our home. I wouldn’t be the player I am today if it wasn’t for the opportunities that have been given to me at this club, I just really hope that the right decision are made by the people above to allow this club to have a future.”

In his message, Batley explained: “What does Worcester mean to me? To me Worcester is home. It is home for my young family and for me. It is home to my eleven-month-old son. I have made a life for myself here and I refuse to believe that this is the end. I love Worcester Warriors and I love this city.”

Worcester co-owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring had insisted that players would receive their August wages by midnight on Wednesday, while non-playing staff would be paid 65 per cent of their salaries on Thursday.

Neither promise was fulfilled – Worcester claim that a complication with their bank’s automated system led to the payroll delay – and the mounting problems were laid bare by John Andress, the Edge Rugby Management Limited agent who represents five players at the club. He claimed his clients are currently collectively owed £70,000.

One of them, Kyle Hatherall, told Worcester on Monday that he was quitting the club but his registration details weren’t released to enable this to happen. “They are refusing to agree to his release,” said Andress to BBC Hereford and Worcester. “Our legal team is currently looking at it.”

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