Worcester Warriors have been granted a stay of execution by the Rugby Football Union to host their first home game of the season on Sunday against Exeter, but the club remains mired in financial crisis with staff criticizing the owners for “broken promises”.
The RFU had given Worcester a deadline of midday on Friday to provide assurances on safety and medical provisions or face ban from the Premiership. The union confirmed they have been provided and the match can go ahead, thanks to the efforts of club staff who are still awaiting unpaid wages. Saturday’s match between Worcester Women’s and Harlequins has also been given the green light.
Worcester is able to operate at a reduced capacity of 4,999 spectators – all in the East Stand – for Sunday’s game due to a limited number of referees, who are volunteers, and medical supplies. There will be no hospitality and limited food and beverage services. However, there is no sign that the sale of the club has been completed, despite insisting earlier this week by the owners that the deal was almost done, angering club staff and raising questions about how long they can continue to operate and after the weekend.
The staff held a meeting on Friday where it was finally decided that instead of going down tools due to unpaid wages – some have received 65% of their August wages, others nothing at all – they would essentially volunteer to ensure the game could continue. The RFU said it would continue to work with the club on “funding and potential new ownership proposals” but the outlook after the weekend still looks bleak without new investment. On Thursday the wifi and emails were shut down and on Friday a rough and ready infographic was used to announce Sunday’s squad – a neat summary of how limited the club is. Having stepped in to save the weekend’s games, club staff rounded up co-owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring in a damning statement.
“Despite not receiving the remaining 35% of our salary for August – and some players and staff from both teams nothing at all – we have chosen to do everything we can to ensure the two weekend games go ahead “, the announcement states. “Our motivation is solely for the Warriors family, the continuation of top rugby at Sixways and to show our support to the playing staff who have shown outstanding professionalism and dedication. Recent events have added more stress to an already frustrating and uncertain situation for all of us, and we cannot promise that this goodwill will continue indefinitely.
“We remain angry at the continued broken promises and lack of communication from those above and hope new ownership comes in with a clean break from those currently in place. Our focus now is to get the pitch ready for the fans, who along with the players and staff are the true heart of this great club. We are all extremely grateful for the messages of support we have received from rugby fans around the world.”
Director of Rugby Steve Diamond also made it clear that the game could go ahead because of the goodwill of the club’s staff. “The game is against Exeter, thank God,” he said. “A lot of hard work by people behind the scenes under difficult circumstances. But all staff have agreed to work under these conditions where some have not been fully paid and some have not. Worcester is all they care about, they all have that mentality.”