The crisis gripping Worcester Warriors has begun to bite after the top-flight rugby club had two fixtures cancelled by Premiership Rugby and saw the beginning of a possible player exodus.
On Monday morning the financially stricken club were informed that their previously postponed match against Gloucester Rugby and their upcoming game against Harlequins have both been cancelled.
It is a significant move from Premiership Rugby, because it means they were not prepared to entertain the possibility of those two matches being replayed at a different point in the season. Gloucester and Harlequins are expected to be given five-point wins.
Further to Worcester’s woes, England duo Ted Hill and Ollie Lawrence – as well as Russian prop Valeriy Morozov and Australian Fergus Lee-Warner – were all last night confirmed to have joined Bath as injury dispensation cover.
Warriors director of rugby Steve Diamond announced the moves on social media, saying: “Together [a hashtag used by the staff throughout the saga surrounding the club] the first four players, Ted, Oli, Val and Ferg go to Bath with our best wishes. Four tough lads.”
Four minutes later he added his thanks to Bath – who are bottom of the Premiership table – for helping Worcester ease their wage bill, as well as stating that “players are free spirited” and that they “need to play”. He went on to add that he will “deal with the mess” and that “hopefully the boys will come home”.
Lawrence last night thanked Worcester fans. “Not quite how I saw this season going, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue playing with Bath,”’ he said. “I’m hoping that it won’t be my last time in a Worcester jersey, but for now I want to say thank you to everyone at the club and the fans.”
Already the week’s events have pointed to the demise of one of the 13 clubs with a share in Premiership Rugby, but further events tomorrow could contribute to sealing the fate of the East Midlands side.
Further loans – and potential permanent exits – are expected in the coming days and weeks, with player wages being unpaid last week triggering the ability for individuals to hand in their 14-day notice to leave.
Moreover, WRFC Players Ltd – the company which pays the team’s player wages – could be liquidated tomorrow over an unpaid tax bill of £4.5m despite not being directly in administration itself, according to multiple reports.
The combination of matches being cancelled and players leaving the club – even on loan – illustrates the predicament the club have found themselves in during directors Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham’s tenure as owners.
The duo, who have made few statements publicly throughout the process of the club being handed a HMRC winding-up petition and the eventual government decision to place the club into administration, angered supporters and players alike last week when they seemingly blamed a combination of Covid-19, fans and players for their financial issues.
“We are thankful to those supporters who turned up week in week out to support the club but sorry that there were not more, nor enough of you on a regular basis,” their statement said.
Former player Niall Annett – now at Bath – criticised the statement, which he said had “large chunks of important info missing, conveniently for some”.
Current player Joe Batley said: “Now I’ve had the chance to sleep on the ‘apology’ from the ‘owners’, it’s safe to say I’m still fuming.”
We will know a lot more about the future financial standing Worcester have by the conclusion of tomorrow’s expected events, but based on the current state of affairs it appears to be just another crisis point on a long road of problems for the club.