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The government has been accused of aiding the downsizing of troubled rugby club Worcester Warriors

The government has been accused by some creditors of backing the Worcester Warriors’ downsizing that has threatened rugby club’s future.

Sportsmail has learned the details of a major change to Worcester’s tenancy at Sixways Stadium, which was approved by public body Sport England last month, with owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham transferring ownership of the site to a new company that will cover all matchday of the club, hospitality and sponsorship income.

It appears the extraordinary move has jeopardized the club’s proposed sale, threatened the livelihoods of businesses and put £15million in taxpayers’ money at risk.

Goldring and Whittingham appear to have legitimately spun off Worcester’s money-making elements into a separate company, Sixways Stadium Limited, leaving the rugby club to operate separately in a move approved by Sport England.

As a result, they were left without their main sources of income and without the ability to pay off nearly £30million in debt.

The owners have been trying to sell the club for most of the summer but despite calls from prospective buyers, no deal has materialized.

Well-placed sources indicated yesterday that the process of reaching a legal agreement with the buyers has been hampered by the owners’ desire to retain a 15 percent stake.

The club’s home game against Exeter last Sunday was in doubt until the 11th hour and it’s unclear whether they can fulfill Saturday’s visit to Newcastle.

The Warriors can send a team against Gloucester in Kingsholm tonight in the Premiership Cup but staff met yesterday to discuss strike action and the lack of a final decision leaves the league game in doubt.

Sport England’s involvement in Worcester’s financial affairs stems from the Government’s £15million loan in February 2021 as part of its Covid-19 Sports Survival Scheme.

Around £9million of the loan is understood to have been used by the owners to pay off debts incurred when they bought the club and to acquire ownership of Sixways, which was then acquired by the owners’ property company.

To compound Worcester’s plight, the terms of the lease were changed dramatically last month, with Sixways Stadium Ltd gaining the right “to conduct hospitality events on the property at any time” and “retain the proceeds of sale,” according to documents seen by Sportmail .

The owners’ real estate company also separated the stadium, training center and player car park from other land around the complex, which was mortgaged to another company called Triangle Petroleum for £600,000 at an interest rate of 20 per cent.

As the biggest creditor, Sport England have had to sign off on such changes and confirmed in a waiver signed last month that they retain the “initial legal charge against Sixways Stadium Ltd” of less than £14.65m.

A number of creditors are understood to have written to the Government setting out their grievances, with one accusing Sport England of siphoning off assets.

“The club received no compensation from Sixways Stadium Ltd for the return of its lease,” the creditor writes. “It appears that Sport England led the downsizing.

Can Sport England please explain why they felt this was in the best interests of the club and the taxpayer?’

It is understood that Sport England took note of the complainant’s letter but did not reply in detail. They declined comment when contacted by Sportsmail, but Whittingham responded by saying: “If you understood any of the real details of the transactions it would be far less interesting and scary.

“The real detail would show that all actions were always in the best interests of the club and the community. I will give a true version of events in due course.’

When contacted by Sportsmail, Whittingham replied by saying: “If you understood any of the real details of the transactions it would be far less interesting and scary.

“The real detail would show that all actions were always in the best interests of the club and the community. I will give a true version of events in due course.’

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