Wasps to play in the Championship next season while Worcester Warriors’ withdraw application

Wasps will play in the Championship from the start of the 2023/24 season
©David Howlett

From the start of next season, the RFU have confirmed that Wasps will compete in the Championship, while Worcester Warriors will not after withdrawing their application.

This comes after a deadline at 17:00 on Tuesday 14 of February passed, where the two clubs were working with the game’s governing body to fulfil the requirements set by the RFU to repay rugby creditors after the two clubs had their sales agreed by administrators.

Worcester Warriors new owners, the Atlas group, withdrew from their application to join the Championship from next season last week and stated their desire to take over National 2 West side Stourbridge and rebrand the club as ‘Sixways Rugby’.

It was an announcement met with much derision, and despite the RFU and Atlas having a conversation to see if there could be a change in position, the club’s decision remained the same and their application remained incomplete.

In their statement, the RFU’s Chief Executive Officer, Bill Sweeney, voiced his concerns about the future of Worcester, who now face a longer return to elite rugby.

"Payment of rugby creditors is an integral part of our insolvency regulations, and we cannot approve the takeover of a club without agreement that rugby creditor payments will be made,” Sweeney said.

“Given Atlas’s withdrawal from the process, we remain concerned that there are insufficient funds to pay rugby creditors which is a responsibility of the administrator of WRFC Trading Limited and the liquidator of WRFC Players Limited to determine.”

It is another hammer blow to Worcester Warriors fans, who have already watched on as their club went bust this season and may well now be looking on as the side could cease to exist altogether.

Jim O’Toole, who is part of the Atlas consortium along with former London Irish player James Sandford, even described the Warriors brand as ‘toxic’ in an interview with The Times.

Throughout the fall of each club, the RFU maintained that in order for clubs to receive their licence to compete as ‘phoenix clubs’, a deal to pay the debts of former owners must be made.

With it being unlikely that a resolution will be found for Worcester, the RFU maintained their commitment to the running of the Midlands academy and the continuation of Worcester Warriors Women, who sought their own funding to secure their future.

There is now a real potential that the Worcester creditors may go unpaid while the RFU awaits detailed proposals of how they look to continue rugby being played in Sixways Stadium and will continue to work with DCMS, local MPs, Atlas and the local community to find the ‘best rugby outcome’.

Wasps were able to provide proof of funds, as well as signed insolvency agreement. This was a major factor in the club being able to retake to the field as soon as next season.

Having worked closely together, the RFU and Wasps have established a clear process for validation and payment to rugby creditors, with the payment of staff and players a priority.

Following the RFU’s announcement, a Wasps spokesperson said the following:

“We remain in positive dialogue with the RFU and thank them for their continued support as we work to secure our future.

“Recent events have highlighted, more than ever, the importance of long-term sustainable investment.

“Our focus remains on stabilising the club financially and Wasps playing in the Championship next season.”

Wasps were unable to provide any further comment at this moment in time, although in the months to come you have to think that updates on the side will continue to filter through in the months to come.