Worcester Warriors players and staff are set to have their contracts terminated after part of the English Premiership club was wound up in the high court on Wednesday.
Worcester went into administration last week and were suspended by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) from all competitions since August after failing to meet a deadline to prove they could operate amid financial difficulties — the club is pursued by HMRC in the High Court for unpaid tax worth a reported £6 million ($6.78m).
Players and staff are paid under WRFC Players Ltd, which has outstanding debts, and on Wednesday was instructed by Judge Nicholas Briggs to be liquidated.
It is understood the club and grounds operated under a separate company, WRFC Trading Limited, owned by co-owners Jason Wittingham and Colin Goldring, and a winding up petition has been suspended.
“This is a very sad day for rugby in England. Our thoughts are with all of the Worcester Warriors players, staff and supporters,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said in a statement.
Steve Diamond, Worcester director of rugby, wrote on Twitter: “This is the darkest day for English rugby. We thought we could turn the tanker around but it’s ended up like the Titanic, sadly.
“The ship has sunk, the captains are nowhere to be seen. The RFU/PRL band played in the background. There are a privileged few who have jobs.”
Players and staff have been effectively terminated, with wages owed from September and part of August.
The team, who finished 11th last season, faces the prospect of relegation from the Premiership, with a decision likely in the coming days.
“The RFU will continue to speak to the administrators, and potential buyers, during the course of the next 24 hours to understand the possibility of a buyer taking over the club in time for the men’s team to participate in the Gallagher Premiership during season 2022-23,” Sweeney added.
Worcester picked up their first win of the season with a 39-5 thrashing of Newcastle Falcons last month following defeat in their opening two games.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report.