Worcester MP Robin Walker has urged the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to call in administrators to Worcester Warriors.
The Conservative back-bencher raised the pressure on Warriors co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham during an impassioned speech in the House of Commons on Thursday evening, and said he knew of “two interested parties” waiting to buy the business.
The club has made the necessary assurances to the Rugby Football Union’s Club Financial Viability Group to enable Saturday’s match at home to Newcastle to go ahead, but Goldring and Whittingham still need to produce proof of funding by Monday’s deadline or face suspension from the league.
Walker described all four objections made by Goldring and Whittingham against administration as “challengeable”, and cited the absence from the club accounts of a £500,000 loan made by the late owner and benefactor Cecil Duckworth as evidence of questionable management, and said the owners’ the claim of no help having been offered by Worcestershire MPs and councils was “simply a provable lie”.
In reply, the Government’s new sports minister Stuart Andrew neither ruled out nor guaranteed DCMS, a creditor of the club, calling in an administrator, although he said “professional advisers” were being sent in “imminently”.
Andrew also rejected any responsibility on the part of DCMS and Sport England for alleged asset-stripping in connection with recent changes of ownership of plots of land at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium.
Newcastle head coach Dave Walder was asked about going to Worcester for a match whose result may subsequently be expunged, with his side having visited Wasps in the Premiership Cup on Tuesday, the day before the Coventry-based club announced an intention to appoint an administrator.
“We as a coaching group made a decision pretty early on, to assume it’s on,” said Walder. “If you go into a game half-cocked, you’re more likely to get injured.
“Our team manager was trying to liaise with them [Worcester’s] team manager about hotel costs, because he was obviously worried that before we shell out on a hotel, he wanted to know the game was going ahead. But other than that, the game as far as we’ve been aware has always been on.
“We came in today, no one mentioned anything, we came off the training pitch and the lads in the changing room were saying it was being confirmed it would go ahead.”
Wasps’ players and staff discussed their club’s situation on Thursday morning for a reported 20 minutes in a mood of hope regarding fresh investment. The match away to Bath on Friday evening is on, and the team were said to have trained as normal. Both Wasps and Worcester are in debt to HMRC over unpaid tax, among other shortfalls.
Former Wasps fly-half Walder said: “They have got this brilliant 30,000-seater stadium for a Premiership Cup game, and there were probably 200 to 300 people watching.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out if you haven’t got people coming through the doors you’re going to find yourself in a tough situation. It’s been like that probably for years and years and years, and unfortunately the pandemic accelerated or highlighted areas where people were not quite ready for things.
“We’ve always cut our cloth accordingly up at Newcastle. We’d love to be able to make superstar signings… There are players we’ve gone in for and offered certain sums of money to, and other [clubs] have blown us out of the water. You will pay to a certain point [but] some of the numbers thrown around are mind-blowing.”