Worcester Warriors players whose contracts were yesterday terminated have launched an appeal for the club to be allowed to keep a crucial shareholding in Premiership Rugby that could safeguard its future.
“P Shares” are owned by each of the 13 Premiership clubs and afford them annual payouts from a central pot of money as well as voting rights on league matters.
But Worcester’s financial collapse has put their P Shares in doubt, with reports that some clubs want Premiership Rugby to buy back their holding from Warriors’ administrators Begbies Traynor.
That has prompted many of the club’s players – now free agents after the company that paid them, WRFC Players Limited, was wound up on Wednesday over unpaid tax – to begin a campaign dubbed “Don’t take the P”.
The P Share uncertainty threatens to scare off potential bidders, although there may be potential to regain the voting rights and stake in the English top flight at a later date. Local MP Robin Walker told City A.M. that he had urged Premiership Rugby to hold off any calls in relation to the P Share plans.
“Without the Premiership shares the club becomes so much less desirable to own,” Joe Batley, a Worcester Warriors forward whose contract was terminated yesterday, told City A.M.
“It’s tough that we could outlive the club as players. On a selfish note we’d love to be part of the future of the club.
“But at the same time we don’t want the club to lose all of the history and the legacy it’s built up to now. We want them to prosper and have the fairytale go again.”
It is understood that although there remains a slim hope of Worcester Warriors resuming competition in some form before the end of the current Premiership season, it is considered highly unlikely.
Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “The RFU will continue to speak to the administrators, and potential buyers, during the course of the next 24 hours to understand the possibility of a buyer taking over the club in time for the men’s team to participate in the Gallagher Premiership during season 2022/23.”
It is understood that Worcester Warriors will be relegated to the Championship at the end of the season but the administrators could challenge this if a buyer is found in due course.
Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon-Massie-Taylor added that “the thoughts of everyone at Premiership Rugby are with the players, staff and fans of the Warriors on what is another distressing day.”
Worcester’s outgoing director of rugby Steve Diamond yesterday compared the situation at the club to the sinking of the Titanic, saying “the RFU [and] PRL [are the] band played in the background.”
A handful of Worcester players have already found new teams but for the majority, and the dozens of staff employed by the club, the future is uncertain.
“I’m devastated,” Batley added. “I feel let down. I feel let down from the owners, from the RFU, from PRL.
“It just seems that there’s been a lot of stages that have been overlooked for us to get to this point. I feel the club could have been saved and should have been saved before it got to this point.
“The fact that we’ve got to this point and the outcome is this, let down is how I feel.”