Worcester Warriors uncertain future in the face of losing it all

Worcester Warriors were handed a winding-up petition on August 16

When Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring took over of Worcester Warriors in June 2019, everything was all smiles.

The pair took their time to do social media, are involved with Morecambe Football Club but now all the smiles have faded and the club they were charged with is on the brink of collapse.

Faced with being the first Premiership club to go into administration since Richmond in 199, the side were put on the edge of administration last week when they were served with a winding-up petition on Tuesday 16 August over unpaid tax.

It has since been reported that the tax bill could be in the region of £6m and after meetings that have taken place today [Monday 22 August], the club could go into administration.

There is plenty that surrounds the clubs’ recent shortcomings, including that during Covid-19 the side received £14m of taxpayer money to keep the club afloat as they were forced to play behind closed doors in 2020 and 2021.

Worcester News reporter, Marcello Cossali-Francis has been hot across all the action since it began unfolding a week ago, so should you wish to learn a lot more in depth about the goings on at Warriors, follow him.


A report by BBC Hereford & Worcester outlined much of the problems faced by the club. Starting with the company running Warriors’ operations – WRFC Trading Limited – being handed the winding-up petition by HMRC.

They also outlined how the club’s owners purchased other parts of the club’s land through other companies they are directors for, including for the freehold of the club’s car park to Mq Property Ltd for £50,000 [which is operated by Whittingham and Goldring]. This was paid for using a loan from a company called Triangle Estate & Petroleum Ltd.

In June, training pitches owned and used by Warriors were sold to a real estate company named Worcester Capital Investment Ltd for £350,000.

Whittingham and Goldring have also registered Sixways Medical Limited, Sixways Property Limited and Sixways Stadium Limited, although the purpose of those three businesses is not known.

After the Sixways site was independently valued at £16.7m, it is uncertain whether the land which has been recently purchased has been undervalued, and what planning restrictions are in place.

In interviews newly inducted Director of Rugby, Steve Diamond – who is also linked with leading a consortium to take the club over – has urged his players to “knuckle down” amidst all that surrounds their livelihoods.

A source close to the Warriors camp informed Talking Rugby Union that the club’s owners have, in fact, not even spoken to the players about what the future may hold. In May, some players went unpaid after the club was unable to pay wages because of “cashflow” issues.

With little direction as to what the future may hold, it is difficult to imagine what is going through the minds of all the employees that call Sixways Stadium their place of work at this moment in time, the balancing act of being in professional sport never having been more precarious.

Even with that said, there has been some noise from the playing staff. Star centre, Ollie Lawrence, tweeted on Monday morning a cowboy emoji, before several of his past and present teammates interacted with the post. 

Lewis Holsey, Jay Tyack and Murray McCallum all quote-tweeted their teammate’s sentiments, while Lawrence was forced to clarify his sentiments in the hour that followed.

This included the England international stating that he believed that the ownership were trying to create change, but has instead tarnished the legacy of the club’s former owner, Cecil Duckworth, who passed away in 2020.

Citing that both he and his teammates are all having their careers, livelihoods and families affected as a result of the situation, he concluded in saying “it’s above us now as to what happens, but for now we’ll crack on as a team”.

The writer’s thoughts

Duckworth’s legacy has been on the minds of many as this storm has continued to circle and build around the West Midlands.

First becoming involved with the club in 1997, Duckworth led the charge to the Premiership. Gaining promotion to the topflight in 2004, it has been a series of stops and starts for the side, who suffered relegations in 2010 and 2014.

To be honest, it is difficult to explain just exactly how much Duckworth was loved in Worcester. He was everything at Sixways, a man whose reach extended far beyond just sport as a benefactor to the Acorns Children Hospice and a trustee of the Wooden Spoon Society.

It is pertinent to mention how many players have mentioned Duckworth in their social media posts about the club. He is much loved, with all that he did in his life having the potential to be blown out as if it were a candle in the wind.

It doesn’t seem long ago that a group of journalists walked onto the field at the Gtech Community Stadium to witness the players’ celebrations after winning the Premiership Rugby Cup.

Beating London Irish, the only sense that you had was one of optimism. With Steve Diamond onboard the club had someone with a no-nonsense attitude and now, more than ever, that is an attitude which Worcester need at this moment in time.

And to be honest, the players shouldn’t “just have to crack on”. Their lives are in limbo, their futures murky as a result of breaking up the club beyond any sort of recognition and the carpet taken from beneath them.

If it’s administration for the club, they will join London Welsh, Richmond and London Scottish in suffering the same fate, and will have just days to find a solution to not only appease HMRC but also pay players’ wages.

Whatever way you look at it, this is catastrophic. Before even stepping out onto the field this season, the club could face a 35 point Premiership sanction, although the RFU could waive any action as a result of a “no fault” clause due to impact of the pandemic.

Even so, a lack of noise and communication from the owners to both the public and the players is concerning. They have seemingly lost all the respect that they previously had, something that may be impossible to do.