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A Lull in Proceedings

It's been about 3 weeks since BBC Hereford & Worcester chronicled the latest news from Sixways about the pre-pack administration of Atlas Worcester Warriors. There was an inevitable flurry of excitement and, at last, something to discuss on the various fans' forums. Since then however, other than a few interesting news articles about our ex-players, there has been little to report on. It's at times like these when it's important to put something out there - predominantly to remind everyone of how much rosier the future of Worcester Warriors looks than it did 12 months ago, when Begbies had just allowed Atlas to exchange contracts on a deal that was always doomed to failure.


REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL


  • Sixways Stadium is being used for sport, conferencing and events and the business is being expanded to optimise usage and income.

  • Existing stadium staff now have significant job security and news broke today that the team is to be helped by Warriors' former Head of Commercial, Gill Wood (a big welcome home to Gill!)

  • The owners of Worcester Warriors, Loxwood Holdings, could not be clearer in their ultimate aim: "to protect and recover elite level rugby at Worcester under the name Worcester Warriors." This puts them on the same page as WWST and all Warriors supporters.

  • They say that actions speak louder than words; the ownership have sought out and obtained appropriate backing from local businessmen and politicians as well as working closely with both WRFC amateur club and the Warriors Foundation which are of such importance to the history of Worcester Warriors.

  • Not only has there been ongoing dialogue with the RFU and the Championship, but formal intent to enter Worcester Warriors in the new Tier 2 competition for 2025/26 has been submitted to Twickenham. A reformed women's team is also high on the agenda.

  • The ownership are determined that Warriors return in a sustainable manner, supported in part by the financial backing of genuine local business people, some of whom are known to WWST.

  • Several members of the RFU hierarchy, including CEO Bill Sweeney, have vocalised their support for the return of Worcester Warriors to the new Tier 2 competition.

  • We now have a fully functioning, independent Supporters' Trust which has a good working relationship with the ownership and staff at Sixways. This gives a clear channel for supporters to voice their concerns and communicate with the club going forward.

© Ian Smith Photography


Unfortunately, although the club is in a good place, there are other factors at play when we consider the likelihood of a Worcester Warriors men's team taking the field against the likes of Cornish Pirates, Coventry and Caldy come September next year. Our fate, it would seem, is held in the hands of those conducting the discussions on the structure of Tier 2 rugby which have been ongoing for around 12 months. Hence I give you:


REASONS TO BE FEARFUL


  • The RFU have already given notice of their intention to scrap the Midlands West Academy (formerly Worcester Warriors Academy). The ACE rugby programme operated at Stourport High School in 2023/24 will now also come under the auspices of Gloucester Rugby Club.

  • It has been widely reported that the RFU have agreed a £264m deal with Premiership Rugby over the next 8 years. Split amongst the 10 premiership clubs this amounts to a staggering £3.3m per year per club. This represents an increase of over £1m per year per club over the last Professional Game Agreement signed off in 2016. This at a time when TV rights deals are dropping in value and all clubs are operating at a loss. There does not appear to be much room to boost the funding of Tier 2 on the back of this aspect of the new PGP.

  • Any agreement on promotion/relegation to/from the Premiership has not been announced and may not, as yet, exist.

  • Talks are ongoing about the structure of Tier 2 but it is abundantly clear from press reports and the protracted discussions that there has been a huge gulf between the positions of the Championship clubs and the RFU/Premiership Rugby.

  • The Championship Clubs committee have, in public, been outspoken in their view that Worcester Warriors should not be allowed to return to Tier 2 competition. Whether this is part of a negotiating ploy to press for greater funding, lower minimum standards criteria or guaranteed promotion for their champions, remains to be seen.

  • The precedence for phoenix entities of clubs entering administration has been set by the likes of London Welsh and Richmond having to start again at the bottom rung of the RFU ladder.


The Professional Game Agreement circa 2016 expires on 30th June 2024. This is the current deadline for the Tier 2 discussions to conclude. As Worcester Warriors supporters we are well-used to the concept of deadlines and how they are often disregarded. However it is surely in no-one's interest for the process to drag on beyond June. As succinctly put by Sir Dicky Evans of Cornish Pirates a fortnight ago "It's down to the RFU to provide a solid foundation on which new investors can base their financial decisions."


Keep your fingers crossed that this solid foundation will include a role for a resurgent Worcester Warriors.


STERLING WORCESTER EXPO 16/05/2024


Just a final word to say that WWST will have a stand at tomorrow's Business Expo at Sixways. If you're attending please do come along and have a chat with either myself or fellow board member, Bob Low.




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