Worcester Warriors and Wasps owners set ‘final deadline’ by RFU over 2023/24 Championship entry | Rugby Union News
Worcester Warriors has been purchased by the consortium led by its former chief executive Jim O’Toole and James Sandford; RFU has given Worcester and Wasps until February 14 to meet ownership conditions for them to be allowed to feature in the Championship for the 2023/24 season
Last Updated: 01/02/23 7:51pm
The RFU has issued Wasps and Worcester Warriors a “final deadline” to meet conditions that would allow them to compete in the Championship next season.
Wasps and Worcester had initially been given a date of December 12 for deals to be concluded, although the RFU has now extended that deadline to February 14.
The RFU has yet to approve Jim O’Toole and James Sandford’s Atlas consortium, who have been appointed Worcester’s new owners, while they confirmed that Wasps’ new owners have no yet completed all conditions set.
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In a statement, the RFU said: “The RFU has informed the new owners of Wasps RFC, and the administrators of WRFC Trading Limited (the main operating entity of Worcester Warriors RFC) that they have until February 14 to conclude their negotiations and provide evidence that they have met the relevant conditions set.
“This is a significant extension to the original mid-December timeline to provide the clubs with the best possible chance of being in the Championship next year. However, a final deadline must be set to provide certainty to the Championship and National League clubs, players and other rugby stakeholders over the format of next season.
“In the case of Wasps, the RFU board conditionally approved the takeover, but not all the conditions set have yet been met, including the lodging of a bond and the signing of an agreement which commits the new club to the relevant conditions. Both would need to be done by the deadline for the approval to remain in place.
“The proposed buyers of Worcester Warriors had informed the RFU that they were not prepared to meet the conditions set, which included commitments not to dispose of land around Sixways Stadium without approval and were unable to satisfy the RFU of the sources and sufficiency of funding.
“The RFU was not able to confirm the suitability of the prospective owners. Therefore, the RFU board was unable to approve their application. If that position changes within the deadline, the RFU will be able to reconsider whether the application can be approved, but if not, then unfortunately the RFU decision will remain the same.”
What next for Worcester?
Worcester and Wasps were suspended from the Gallagher Premiership at the start of the 2022/23 season, resulting in the top flight being reduced from 13 to 11 clubs, although both remain hopeful of returning in the second tier next season.
Administrators Begbies Traynor say they can now progress the sale of Worcester “following a complex process”, with former Worcester chief executive O’Toole and business partner Sandford having had their bid accepted by the administrators.
Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “Following a complex process, we are now able to progress the sale of Worcester Warriors and associated assets to Atlas Worcester Warriors Rugby Football Club Limited (“Atlas”).
“We can confirm that contracts have been exchanged with Atlas. This is an exclusive contractual position, and Atlas are committed to completing this transaction as early as possible and will share with both the rugby community and local community their plans for the club’s future.
“Due to the confidential nature of this transaction, we have been unable to provide this update any earlier but have appreciated the ongoing interest of supporters, staff and related organisations.
Former England head coach Eddie Jones said in September he was concerned for the future of Worcester and Wasps
“We are delighted to see that there is a clear plan in place to deliver both rugby and many other exciting community-focused initiatives to Sixways, befitting the fabulous facilities and which will entertain the extensive support base.”
What about Worcester Warriors Women?
Sale Sharks Women and Worcester Warriors Women have received conditional offers to join the Allianz Premier 15s league for the 2023/24 season, subject to providing the required information requested by the RFU.
Depending on the sale of the club, the Worcester Warriors Women’s team may operate with the men’s club, although the women’s team has recently secured funding to enable them to continue to operate independently.
Belinda Moore, CEO of Women’s Premier 15s LTD said: “It’s a really exciting time for women’s rugby at all levels, and we’re really pleased to see 10 clubs now moving forwards in their preparations for joining Allianz Premier 15s for next season.”