The rugby union’s governing authorities were questioned by MPs over how Worcester Warriors and Wasps, two Premiership clubs, concurrently experienced financial catastrophe. On 24 November, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hosted a meeting with the leaders of both the Rugby Football Union and the Premiership Rugby.
Need a second opinion on your insolvency litigation? Our specialist solicitors & barristers can help by assessing your case prospects and whether a winding-up petition is the right tool. We have highly experienced dual-qualified lawyers, so if our view is your case has limited merit or high risk we can advise you of the best strategy in our first meeting.
Background on the Financial Collapse of Worcester Warriors and Wasps
Wasps, a founding member of the Premiership, entered administration on October 17. This was followed by Worcester’s collapse, WRFC Players Ltd when the club’s division through which players and staff are paid, was wound up in the High Court of London 13 days earlier.
Currently, it has been determined that the Warriors owe more over £30 million in debt, including millions in unpaid taxes, while the Wasps Group owes more than £100 million. Wasps Holdings’ most recent set of financial statements, which covered the fiscal year that ended in June 2021, revealed a two-year loss of £18.5 million and liabilities of $54.7 million.
The RFU has lost a total of £73 million since 2012, and the media has already reported that numerous other Premiership clubs are facing serious financial difficulties.
Both Wasps and Worcester have been relegated from the Premiership and are currently on suspension. Neither club is yet aware of what will happen to them next season.
The Parliamentary Inquiry
The Worcester MP Robin Walker, the CEO of the Worcester Warriors Foundation Carol Hart, the RFU CEO Bill Sweeney, the CEO of Premiership Rugby Simon Massie-Taylor, and the CEO of the Rugby Players Association Judith Batchelar all appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (“DCMS Committee”).
The DCMS Committee, a select 10-person House of Commons body plays a critical role in holding ministers accountable, is not a government committee.
Bill Sweeney, CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), was criticised for being “asleep on the job” in the wake of the financial issues that led Premiership clubs Worcester Warriors and Wasps into administration.
The loss of the two Premiership teams was described as “a failure of the game on an epic magnitude” by Julian Knight MP, the chair of the DCMS committee, who also said Sweeney should be “looking at” his job. Additionally, Sweeney received criticism for not maintaining the fit and proper person standard despite knowing that former Warriors co-owner Colin Goldring had received a reprimand from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The existing owners test, according to Sweeney, was “not sufficient,” and a system in which club owners undergo regular evaluations of their suitability to manage clubs would be “essential.”
The select committee also had criticism for Simon Massie-Taylor, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby. In order to emphasise the negative effects of losing two of the 13 top-flight clubs, Knight compared it to the world of football.
According to ESPN, Knight stated, “If that happened the head of the Premier League would resign on the spot. I don’t know how you can come to this committee today and say what you’ve said with a straight face, frankly.
“I’ve dealt with football. I thought that was bad. But I have never come across anything as shambolic as this … the lack of care and lack of thought, towards people in your own game, in my entire time as a select committee member.”
How Can We Help you Oppose a Winding Up Petition?
Our specialist winding-up petition lawyers are experts in defending winding-up petitions. We can advise you as to the specific merits and demerits of your case and can assist you in opposing winding up petitions and negotiating with creditors. If your company has been issued a winding-up petition or statutory demand, you may be able to challenge that petition on the following grounds:
That the debt alleged in the statutory demand or petition to be owing is genuinely disputed on substantial grounds by your company; Your company has a genuine right of set-off against the creditor that exceeds the amount claimed in the statutory demand; or In certain other limited circumstances (for example such as jurisdiction, technical or procedural error or delay).
To oppose a winding-up petition, you will initially need to file a witness statement in opposition with the Court within five business days before the date when the petition will be heard by the Court (rule 7.16 of the Insolvency (England and Wales) Rules 2016). A copy of that witness statement will need to be provided to the petitioning creditor at least five business days before the hearing.
Your company is entitled to appear at the petition hearing so as to oppose the making of a winding-up order. It is a routine matter for companies to instruct solicitors and/or barristers to appear on their behalf at the hearing.
First-class Second Opinions ✔
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Need a second opinion on your insolvency litigation? Our specialist solicitors & barristers can help by assessing your case prospects and whether a winding-up petition is the right tool. We have dual-qualified lawyers, so if our view is your case has limited merit or high risk we warn you in our first meeting.
Some firms offer free meetings with unqualified or junior lawyers but only after you’ve spent significant funds do you then get advice from a senior partner and/or barrister possibly suggesting that the case shouldn’t be pursued. We believe it is better to give accurate advice from experienced counsel from the outset.
We do things differently from all other law firms in England & Wales. We offer you partner and counsel-led advice in our first meeting, for a heavily discounted fixed fee. That way our best solicitors and barristers can review your litigation case and give you the correct advice at the outset, when it matters the most.
Legal advice is just one aspect of getting a solution. The most important thing is what you do with the legal knowledge about your case, how you present it to the other side and how you negotiate your way to the optimal legal settlement. Our lawyers are masters of strategically securing optimal financial settlement, often via winding-up petitions where carefully considered and advised as appropriate.
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