Worcester Warriors’ owners say going into administration would have “disastrous implications”.
Five Worcestershire MPs have urged the government to place the troubled Premiership club in administration.
But owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham said they were “disappointed” by the MPs’ statement.
“Avoiding administration is in the best interests of the club’s creditors, not to mention its players and staff,” Whittingham and Goldring said.
Robin Walker, in whose constituency Sixways is sited, Harriett Baldwin, Rachel Maclean and Mark Garnier issued a statement on Monday morning saying that they have called for action from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS].
But Walker told BBC Hereford & Worcester that their calls are now also backed by former cabinet member Sajid Javid, the MP for neighbouring Bromsgrove, who “fully supports this approach”.
The only MP within the county not included is Mid Worcestershire’s Nigel Huddleston, the DCMS minister, who is precluded from being allowed a say on the Warriors crisis, in case it might be perceived to be in conflict with his ministerial responsibilities.
The Premiership, English rugby union’s top flight, has agreed the Warriors can start the new season – and the Warriors owners say delayed payments to staff for their August wages have now been sorted.
But the club, who have been owned by Whittingham and Goldring since December 2018, still face a winding-up petition from HMRC, who are owed over £6m, plus a long list of other creditors – and they were kept going during the Covid pandemic by a £14m sports survival package loan.
There has been talk of potential new owners but one consortium, involving former Warriors chief executive Jim O’Toole, is dependent on the club being put into administration, which would involve an immediate automatic 35-point deduction.
“We would like to make it clear that we have kept the DCMS fully informed about the financial situation at Worcester Warriors, ” Whittingham and Goldring said in a statement.
“They are aware of the options which are on the table to save the club together with the disastrous implications posed to the club by any administration.
“The DCMS knows that three sets of buyers are in discussions with us. All three buyers are serious propositions and all the deals being considered would avoid the club going into administration. One of the buyers is moving at an especially rapid pace.”
They added: “Pursuing a deal which includes payment to all creditors as well as working capital best serves the club and the local community.
“Forcing Worcester Warriors into administration as these MPs have asked risks the club losing its players and staff, losing its P [Premiership] share, wiping off the debt owed to local businesses and to HMRC, and incurring severe RFU sanctions.”
The latest statement from the local MPs follows a statement last week in which they called for the club to “focus on protecting its elite rugby status” and made clear that development at and around Sixways will “only be supported if it supports sporting and community objectives”.
They now say that the DCMS must “trigger an administration as swiftly as possible”.
Worcester MP Walker said: “Enough is enough. I wanted to give every opportunity for a solution to be found which would avoid the club going into administration, but it is now clear that this is not in sight.”
Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire said: “With great regret, the appalling mismanagement of the club under the current owners means that I do have to support this difficult decision to place the club into administration. This now appears to be the only way forward.
Maclean, MP for Redditch, said: “The future of the Warriors is vital across the whole county, including my constituency, I know the huge affection and regard in which it is held. Securing its future is vital for all of us.”
Garnier, MP for Wyre Forest, said: “Cecil Duckworth’s immense legacy the Warriors needs to be protected. I am joining my fellow Worcestershire MPs in calling for action to protect this wonderful asset for our county as swiftly as possible.”
“We understand that we are under scrutiny and that our actions are being questioned,” added the owners. “Our best response to this is to stay focused and put all our time and energy into getting the best deal for the club, its players, staff, partners, sponsors and creditors across the line – and that is what we continue to do.”
Warriors are expected to kick off the new Premiership season – their 17th in the top flight – with a trip to London Irish on Saturday.
But it is not clear who director of rugby Steve Diamond will have to pick from as several Warriors players asked to be released from their contracts last week, over the late payment of their wages.