All wasps The team lost their jobs after the club went into administration and relegation is expected to follow. The players were left in tears when told of their fate during a meeting on Monday with one of English rugby’s most famous clubs set to join Worcester in their Championship qualification next season.
Wasps remain hopeful of finding urgent new investment to avoid going bankrupt, but while Monday’s entry into administration was widely expected, the grim announcement that 167 people – including all players and coaches – have been dismissed gave sobering signs of another scorching day for the English game. The RFU declined to comment, but union regulations state the administration will face relegation unless Wasps can prove ‘no-fault’ insolvency on appeal. Wasps chief executive Stephen Vaughan said dialogue was ongoing with the RFU but conceded, “we probably understand that we need to get back into the Championship”.
Wasps had bought themselves time by twice filing a notice of intent to appoint directors and although there were parties interested in a takeover, including a consortium led by the former chief executive , David Armstrong, time has finally run out. Wasps owe £2m to HMRC as well as £35m to bondholders under the scheme which funded their move to Coventry in 2014.
Unless a quick takeover can be achieved, this season’s suspension Premiership will be made permanent and the fact that Leicester have already confirmed that Sunday’s scheduled game has been called off gives Wasps a bleak outlook, who list six domestic titles and two European titles among their achievements. “It is a dark day for English rugby, and we know it will be devastating news for all Wasps players and staff, former players, sponsors and their thousands of supporters around the world, and all those who have ever been involved with this great club,” read a statement on behalf of the trustees, FRP.
“Our immediate goal is to support those who lost their jobs this morning. This will be an incredibly difficult time for every individual, and we will help them file claims with the Severance Payments Department. The board and many others across the club have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to try to find a solution that would allow the club to move forward, and it is with great regret that there was not enough time to allow that to happen. However, we remain in discussions with interested parties and are confident that an agreement will be reached that will allow Wasps to continue.
“We would like to thank the RFU and the PRL for their support to date and we continue to work closely with them as negotiations with interested parties continue. Of course, time is running out and we will do everything in our power to advance discussions with interested parties as quickly as possible, while fulfilling our legal obligations as administrators.
In the short term, players and coaches are now faced with finding new clubs. Jack Willis was the only Wasps player included in Eddie Jones’ 36-man squad for the Autumn Internationals and faces the prospect of maintaining his fitness on his own before joining the team next week. By the time England take on Argentina on November 6, they will not have had a club game for four weeks. Jones, however, was optimistic that the crisis engulfing the national game will not affect the national team.
“It won’t affect us,” Jones said. “We can only control what we can control. Jack can control what he can control. So the most important thing for him is that he prepares like an international player. He has a great opportunity to arrive at camp in the best physical condition he has ever had. The big thing we saw from him at last camp is that he made a significant improvement in that area. He has another opportunity this fall. Some of our staff work with him to get him into the right position.
It remains to be seen whether Premiership Rugby redesigns its fixtures for the rest of the season – it is understood a revised schedule was recently circulated to clubs and rejected by some – but the league is now in a desperate position. Plans are underway to redesign England rugby’s domestic structure for the 2024-25 campaign with growing support for a 10-team top flight, but how next season unfolds is still unclear with the scrapping of Wasps and Worcester. Ealing is the favorite to win the Championship, but it remains to be seen whether he will fulfill the criteria required to form a 12-team Premiership.
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