Rugby stars at troubled Worcester lose jobs after court ruling

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London (AFP) – Players and staff at the ailing Worcester will have their contracts terminated after part of the Premiership rugby club was dissolved in the High Court on Wednesday.

UK tax authorities are prosecuting the club for around £6m ($6.8m) in unpaid taxes.

Judge Nicholas Briggs ordered WRFC Players Ltd, a subsidiary of WRFC Trading Ltd which pays players and some staff, to be wound up.

A liquidation application against WRFC Trading Ltd, which remains in administration, has been suspended.

Ted Hill, Ollie Lawrence, Fergus Lee-Warner and Valery Morozov have already joined rival Premiership club Bath on loan and others will follow them out the door along with staff.

Having not been paid for September, all players could have left on October 14, meaning the liquidation brought their departure forward by nine days.

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“This is the darkest day for English rugby,” Worcester rugby director Steve Diamond wrote on Twitter.

“We thought we could turn the tanker around, but unfortunately it ended up like the Titanic. The ship has sunk, the captains are nowhere to be seen.”

Hill tweeted: “What an incredibly sad day for everyone in Worcester.

“A club that meant so much to everyone has gone in a direction that none of us wanted. A place where I have played rugby since I was 14 and met so many people who mean so much to me and my family.”

Worcester’s games against Gloucester and Harlequins were canceled on Monday and although they remain suspended from all competition they could be reinstated in the Premiership if a buyer is found by the middle of this month.

Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership Rugby have yet to make a final decision on relegation, although the chances of a continuation in the top flight appear slim given the lack of time to agree terms with new investors.

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RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said in a statement: “This is a very sad day for rugby in England. Our thoughts are with all the players, staff and supporters of the Worcester Warriors.

“The RFU will continue to be in contact with Administrators and potential buyers over the next 24 hours to understand the possibility of a buyer taking over the club in time for the men’s side to compete in the Gallagher Premier League in the 2022 season. 23.”

‘Learn Lessons’

The Rugby Players Association called for “Learn Lessons”.

“The RPA is extremely saddened to hear of the liquidation of WRFC Players Limited,” it said in a statement.

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“We stand by all Worcester employees. Our immediate thoughts are with all of the players and staff who lost their jobs today due to this terrible situation.

“We will continue to support our members in any way we can during this extremely challenging and difficult time, as we have done since it became clear that the club was experiencing financial difficulties.”

There are fears other English Premiership clubs could also face a bleak future – the total debt of all 13 Premiership clubs is estimated at more than £500m.

Wasps, two-time European champions, have announced their intention to appoint administrators after failing to meet a May deadline to repay £35million in bonds used to finance their move from London to the Midlands city of Coventry in the year 2014 contributed.

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