Worcester win 11th-hour reprieve for Sunday’s Premiership game with Exeter

Worcester Warriors have been granted a stay of execution by the Rugby Football Union to host Sunday’s first home match of the season against Exeter but the club remains mired in financial crisis with staff lashing out at the owners over “broken promises”.

The RFU had set Worcester a deadline of midday on Friday to provide guarantees over safety and medical provisions or face suspension from the Premiership. The union confirmed that they have been provided and the match can go ahead, thanks to the efforts of the club’s staff who are still waiting on unpaid wages. Saturday’s match between Worcester’s women’s side and Harlequins has also been given the green light.

Worcester have been allowed to operate a reduced capacity of 4,999 spectators – all situated in the East stand – for Sunday’s match due to a limited number of stewards, who are volunteering, and medical provisions. There will be no hospitality and limited food and drink services. There is no sign, however, of the sale of the club reaching completion, despite an insistence earlier this week from the owners that the deal was almost done, provoking the ire of the club’s staff and raising questions over how long the club can continue to operate beyond the weekend.

Staff held a meeting on Friday where it was ultimately determined that rather than down tools due to unpaid wages – some have received 65% of August’s salary, others nothing at all – they would effectively volunteer to ensure the game could go ahead. The RFU has said it will continue to work with the club over “funding and potential new ownership proposals” but the outlook beyond the weekend still looks bleak without fresh investment. On Thursday, wifi and emails went down and on Friday a rough and ready infographic was used to announce Sunday’s team – a neat encapsulation of just how cash-strapped the club is. Having stepped in to salvage the weekend’s matches, the club’s staff rounded on the co-owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring in a damning statement.

“Despite not receiving our remaining 35% salary for August – and some players & staff from both teams nothing at all – we have chosen to do whatever we can to make sure the two games at the weekend can go ahead,” read the statement. “Our motivations are entirely for the Warriors family, the continuation of top flight rugby at Sixways and to show our support for the playing staff who have shown outstanding professionalism and dedication. Recent events have added more stress to an already frustrating and uncertain situation for us all and we cannot promise this goodwill will continue indefinitely.

“We remain angry at the continual broken promises and lack of communication from those above and hope for new ownership to come in with a clean break from those currently in position. Our focus is now on getting the stadium ready for the supporters, who along with players and staff are the true beating heart of this great club. We are all extremely thankful for the messages of support we have received from rugby fans around the world.”

The director of rugby Steve Diamond also made clear that the game could go ahead because of the goodwill of the club’s staff. “The game is on against Exeter, thank goodness,” he said. “A lot of hard work from people behind the scenes under difficult circumstances. But all the staff have agreed to work under these circumstances where some haven’t been paid fully and some haven’t been paid. Worcester is all they care about, everybody is in that mindset.”