The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is in talks with the Rugby Football Union to block the sale of Worcester Warriors to the Atlas consortium.
City A.M. understands that the two bodies are meeting today with the governmental department expected to lobby against Worcester’s administrators Begbies Traynor selling the club to a bid that has not passed the RFU’s fit and proper tests.
While the Atlas consortium bid the highest for the former Premiership Rugby club, they did not pass the governing body’s directors’ tests in December.
Worcester Warriors no more?
The bid were given until Valentine’s Day to meet all necessary tests but that has not happened thus far.
Atlas’ Jim O’Toole said that they “cannot agree to RFU conditions and commercial restriction”, which are understood to be related to the sale and use of land surrounding the club without the RFU’s permission.
Atlas’ plan involves disbanding Worcester Warriors and forming ‘Sixways Rugby’. This new organisation will partner with Stourbridge RFC and see the side play at Sixways Stadium in National League 2 West.
The intention is to take this local club through the leagues and into the Championship by 2026 but even the name change may need RFU approval.
Stourbridge are bottom of National League 2 West with one win in 18 and are 13 points adrift from 13th place.
In an email seen by City A.M. from the Stourbridge club president Richard Baron to members, the club confirmed that they have met with Worcester owners Atlas “with a view to Atlas supporting Stourbridge Rugby Club commercially not only at the First XV level but throughout the player membership with Stourbridge remaining firmly a member’s owned club.
“We believe that this investment ensures the longevity of rugby at Stourton Park for generations to come. We will be holding a Special General Meeting shortly to present the proposal to our membership.”
Atlas’ Jim O’Toole said this morning: “We will invest in their semi-professional first team and they will play at Sixways.
“We will invest significantly to get them through the leagues. The plan will be to reach the Championship by 2026.
“We hope to be able to call upon former players to come in and help us move through the divisions. Some of the older guys who can still mix it in that league, as well as the players who were breaking through from the academy.”
“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 RFU said in a statement.
“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 Department for Culture, Media and Sport added: “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.”