The Worcester Warriors have been given two deadlines amid a warning from the Rugby Football Union that they will be suspended from all competitions on Monday if they are unable to meet three criteria.
The Warriors have until 5 p.m. on September 26 to provide proof that they have the required insurance cover, the funds to pay the payroll and a meaningful plan to get Sixways out of the crisis.
Worcester is battling for its future, weighed down by debts totaling more than £25m amid growing anger at owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, who have been accused of stripping the club’s assets.
Additionally, Worcester must prove by midday Thursday their ability to stage Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership game against Newcastle after last Sunday’s first home game of the season only went ahead thanks to the efforts of staff, including many have not received their August salaries. .
“The RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have been seeking assurances from Worcester owners over funding and potential new ownership proposals for several weeks,” a statement from the RFU read.
“We are grateful to the Worcester staff for their hard work in being able to provide the information needed to allow the games to go ahead over the past weekend and into the week ahead.
“The RFU have set the same conditions for this weekend’s matches to take place as those in place the previous weekend.
“These must be completed by noon on Thursday September 22 because, in particular, Newcastle will move on Friday September 23.
“However, all parties remain concerned that the lack of funds available will not allow the club to be viable in the long term.
“In particular, the RFU is aware that the insurance cover is only in place until Monday, September 26 at midnight.
“As a result, the RFU have written to Worcester to confirm that they will be suspended from all competitions, including the Gallagher Premiership, Allianz Premier 15 and Allianz Cup, if the club cannot provide proof of insurance cover in place, the availability of funds to meet the monthly payroll, and a credible plan to move the club forward, by 5 p.m. on September 26.
If Worcester fails to provide the assurances over funding and insurance sought by the RFU, they have been told the suspension could result in the complete withdrawal from all leagues.
It is the most dramatic development in the saga to date as patience runs out with owners Goldring and Whittingham, who have yet to sell the club to a new buyer despite repeated claims that a deal is imminent.
“The number of false promises made to staff could well be in double digits now in less than a month. I wonder who will be blamed this time. “The computer said no ‘maybe,'” assistant coach Nick Easter said on Twitter.
This was a reference to Goldring and Whittingham previously stating that the reason players and staff had not received their salaries for August was because of a computer error at the bank.
A winding up petition from HM Revenue and Customs – or compulsory winding up – is due to come into effect on October 5 as another critical deadline looms.
Worcester have even been forced to call up two retired players to allow Wednesday night’s Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm to continue.
Academy fullbacks and transition coach Jonny Goodridge, a former full-back at Gloucester in a career that also included stints at Leeds and Bristol, played his last competitive game nine years ago.
The 41-year-old is joined on a bench that includes just seven substitutes by flanker Matt Gilbert, who retired at the end of last season with Cinderford, his last club, although he also had spells in Worcester and Bath.
Four years younger than Goodridge, Gilbert hung up his boots in April to run a pizzeria and is one of five players invited to the 22nd.