RFU and Premiership to face DCMS inquiry as Wasps confirm redundancies | Premiership

The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby will be hauled in front of a parliamentary inquiry to address “serious concerns about the future of the sport” after the entire Wasps squad lost their jobs when the club entered administration on Monday.

On another dark day for the English game it emerged both organisations will be grilled by the digital, culture, media and sport select committee of MPs next month after Wasps followed Worcester into administration. They are also expected to be relegated by the RFU.

Members of the Wasps squad were left in tears as they were informed of their fate at a meeting before the bleak announcement that 167 people – including all players and coaches from the men’s, women’s and netball team – had been made redundant.

Wasps remain hopeful that fresh investment is forthcoming to avoid the club going bust, but the chief executive, Stephen Vaughan, said: “We understand that we have to come back in the Championship.”

Though there is hope of a swift takeover, Wasps’ suspension from the Premiership is expected to be made permanent with Vaughan adding it is “highly unlikely” Wasps will play again this season. The fact that Leicester have already confirmed the scheduled fixture on Sunday has been cancelled paints a bleak outlook for a club which lists six domestic and two European titles among their achievements.

The DCMS committee chair, Julian Knight, said: “The fact that two of the country’s top clubs have now suffered the fate of falling into administration raises serious concerns about the future of the sport and its financial viability. The RFU and Premiership Rugby have acknowledged the need to set a more sustainable path for club rugby. We will be pressing them to ensure they are putting the foundations in place to guarantee the health of the sport from the top level right down to the grassroots.”

Wasps had bought themselves time by twice filing notice of intention to appoint administrators and while there have been parties interested in a takeover, including a consortium led by the former chief executive David Armstrong, time has ultimately run out. Wasps owe £2m to HMRC as well as £35m to bondholders as part of the scheme that financed their move to Coventry in 2014.

Lee Blackett has said it was ‘devastating’ to see the Wasps squad made redundant on Monday.
Lee Blackett has said it was ‘devastating’ to see the Wasps squad made redundant on Monday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

“I am extremely sad,” the head coach, Lee Blackett, told Sky Sports. “Seeing how upset the guys were is devastating. I hope there’s some positive news in the coming weeks but at this stage it’s hard to see past.”

In the short term, players and coaches are now faced with scrambling around for new clubs. Those forced to move abroad will still be eligible for England selection up until the 2023 World Cup but, with a host of Worcester players also looking for clubs, the best‑case scenario for most is a sizeable pay cut.

Jack Willis was the only Wasps player included in the 36-man squad Eddie Jones named for the autumn internationals on Monday and he faces the prospect of maintaining his fitness alone before joining the squad next week. By the time England face Argentina on 6 November he will not have had a club match for four weeks. Jones, however, was bullish that the crisis engulfing the domestic game will not affect the national side.

“It won’t impact us,” the England head coach said. “The big thing for [Jack] is that he prepares like an international player. He’s got a great opportunity to come into camp in the best physical condition he’s ever been in. The great thing we saw from him in the last camp is that he’s made a significant improvement in that area. He has another opportunity this autumn. Some of our staff are working with him to get him in the right position.”

It remains to be seen whether Premiership Rugby redraws its fixtures for the remainder of the season – it is understood a revised schedule was circulated recently to clubs and rejected by some – but the league is now in a desperate position.

Plans are afoot to redraw the domestic structure of English rugby for the 2024‑25 campaign with support growing for a 10‑team top flight but how next season shapes up is still unclear with both Wasps and Worcester dropping out. Ealing are the favourites to win the Championship though it remains to be seen whether they will meet the criteria required to form a 12‑team Premiership.

A statement on behalf of the administrator, FRP, who confirmed the Coventry Building Society Arena would continue to trade, said: “This is a dark day for English rugby, and we know this will be devastating news for every Wasps player and member of staff, past players, sponsors, and their thousands of supporters throughout the world, and anyone who has ever been involved with this great club.

“Our immediate focus is on supporting those who have lost their jobs this morning. This will be an incredibly challenging time for every individual, and we will be assisting them in making claims to the redundancy payments service. The board and many others across the club have worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to try and find a solution that would allow the club to move forward, and it is with great regret that there has been insufficient time to allow this to happen.

“However, we remain in ongoing discussions with interested parties and are confident that a deal will be secured that will allow Wasps to continue. We continue to engage closely with them as negotiations with interested parties continue. Of course, time remains of the essence, and we will be doing everything in our power to progress discussions with interested parties as quickly as possible, while fulfilling our statutory duties as administrators.”

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