Rugby bigwigs were scolded earlier today at the hands of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee at the Palace of Westminster.
Premiership Rugby chief Simon Massie-Taylor was lambasted by the committee, led by the chair Julian Knight MP, while Rugby Football Union chief Bill Sweeney, too, was held to the fire over the state of English rugby at the moment.
The committee convened over the situation surrounding the fallout following the administration processes which is ongoing at Premiership duo Worcester Warriors and Wasps.
The Warriors fell into financial woes when former owners – Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham – failed to pay owed tax to HMRC and pay wages to players.
In the committee, which took place in Portcullis House on Thursday, chairman Knight asked whether the former owners were guilty of asset stripping and fraud – Worcester Warriors Foundation CEO Carol Hart and local Worcestershire MP Robin Walker did not deny this was the case and there were calls of potential police investigations surrounding the actions of the former owners.
While Independent MP Dr Rupa Huq raised the idea of a rugby version of the recent Crouch review of football, and Damian Green MP asked whether the professional game in the UK was running before it was walking, the scathing review of the state of domestic rugby in the United Kingdom came from chair Knight, who at one point asked whether Sweeney should consider his position.
“I’ve dealt with football, but I’ve barely ever come across something as shambolic – a lack of care, a lack of thought of people in your own game – as this is my entire time as a select committee member since 2016,” he said to Massie-Taylor and Sweeney.
He further said to Massie-Taylor: “If this happened in the Premier League that would be four clubs [going under]… the head of the league would resign on the sport.
“I don’t know how you can come to this committee today and say what you’ve said with a straight face, frankly.”
It was a day English rugby was laid bare in front of lawmakers. Parliamentary privilege gave those present the ability to freely speak their mind.
But amid the debate surrounding the situation in England – where Labour MP Kevin Brennan asked whether international rugby was “a healthy hand on a diseased arm” – there was a consistent slamming of the governance of English rugby.
Walker and Hart, as well as those on the DCMS Committee, criticised the governance of English rugby and suggested there are lessons to be learned from the failures of the last few months.
City A.M. sources state that Worcester will function with or without the key operating asset known as the P share and that the club is hopeful of entering the Championship next season – assuming the club’s sale goes through without a hitch.