Stourbridge decision to accept Worcester proposal "still remains firmly in the hands of our membership"

Stourbridge currently compete in National Two West, the fourth tier of the English game
©Mark Denison + Stourbridge Rugby

Stourbridge Director of Rugby Neil Mitchell has told Talking Rugby Union the decision for the club to go into partnership with Worcester Warriors is one "which remains firmly in the hands" of the club's membership.

Atlas - who own Worcester - confirmed today that they have pulled out of applying for a place for the Warriors to compete in the Championship next season, with director Jim O'Toole saying "they couldn't agree to RFU conditions and commercial restrictions."

Reports have suggested Atlas will rebrand Worcester as 'Sixways Rugby' which would also involve partnering with National Two West side Stourbridge, but Mitchell told TRU that any joint venture still hasn't officially been approved.

"We need to respect the heritage and history and remain a members club steering our future from within," said Mitchell, who also confirmed stories suggesting the club would play at Sixways next season are currently "inaccurate."

However, the Director of Rugby did state that "opportunities like this don’t come along very often."

He continued: "From those of us involved in this process so far, an exciting, secure and prosperous future could lie ahead for our great club in what may be very uncertain times ahead in the community game.

"The opportunity of working with Atlas could represent a cohesive root and branch approach to the way our club operates from minis and micros through to the semi-professional game.

"We have fantastic facilities at Stourton Park and the opportunity is here to put Stourbridge Rugby Club firmly on the map, at the epicentre of rugby in the Black Country and beyond.

"We feel the additional support to our coaching, medical and playing infrastructure and investing in our future will bring rugby into new territory in our region."

Stour - who currently ply their trade in level four - have been one of the mainstays of National League Rugby. Mitchell highlights how working alongside Atlas could boost the profile of the Midlands club, which he feels will tackle one key area across the community game - participation numbers.

He added: “During the last twenty years, we’ve had to beg, steal or borrow players to enable us to compete at a national level. 

"Yes, certainly we have and had local guys who have come through from the mini and juniors to the semi-professional game, but our demographic with three other currently junior clubs within a four-mile radius of ours means the pool in which to ‘fish’ for players to compete at national level is running dry.

"Consolidation and community partnerships are essential to move the game forward. Post-pandemic, the number of community rugby clubs remaining sustainable are dramatically falling and players are moving away from the sport in all age categories. 

"The pandemic has changed the direction of the mindset of many young players together with concerns over head injuries and the dormant legacy that may present.

"The outreach into the community that we are discussing will hopefully encourage and engage more of our local schools to lean more towards playing rugby than the traditional football that the region has been renowned for.

"A special general meeting will be taking place over the next few weeks seeking membership approval to take this forward."