Sport England have been dragged into the row over financially troubled Premiership rugby outfit Worcester Warriors with one creditor raising questions around a £15m Covid-19 loan.
In allegations set out in summarised correspondence to Sport England seen by City A.M., the creditor, who wishes to remain anonymous, alleges that the organisation – which acted as a loan agent in a deal between Government Covid-19 funding and Premiership rugby clubs – “created a large liability on the balance sheet of WRFC Trading Limited” due to the “acquisition of the freehold” of the stadium by another company, MQ Property Co.
Furthermore, the correspondence alleges that “Sport England approved the separation of the physical stadium [Sixways]” and its pitches and player car park from MQ Property Co to another company, Sixways Stadium Limited.
The allegations add that Sport England allowed this to happen “without confirming that the club, or its lawyers, had receipt of the monies”, and that the organisation explicitly asked the club’s stadium and associated income to be separated from the rugby club during a period of financial uncertainty.
Sport England chose not to comment on any of the allegations and subsequent questions arising from those accusations.
The apparent dispute between a creditor and Sport England is the latest twist in the saga surrounding Worcester Warriors, who began the season this month on the brink of going under or entering administration.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week had to retract a statement suggesting the club had already gone into administration, though the only public bidder for the club – former chief executive Jim O’Toole and Atlas SportsTech – still believes administration is the only way to save the club.
On Sunday the club had to rely on unpaid staff to ensure their Premiership match against Exeter Chiefs went ahead but director of rugby Steve Diamond said it was unlikely that the club would make it until their next home game – against Newcastle Falcons this weekend – without new investment in the club, in the form of new ownership or loans.
Worcester are, however, set to play tonight against Gloucester Rugby in the Premiership Rugby Cup, though Diamond said on Sunday it could rely on loan players, which in turn rests on further finances being pumped into the club.
The club said on Sunday they would have a plan in place by yesterday afternoon but that deadline came and went, as did the ones prior to that. “The number of false promises to staff may well be in double figures now in less than a month,” defence coach Nick Easter said on social media yesterday. “Wonder who will get the blame this time? ‘Computer said no’ maybe.”
The latest statement from the Premiership outfit simply confirmed that the match tonight will take place with team news still to be confirmed.
City A.M. approached the Warriors owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring but did not receive a response.