Worcester will be known as Sixways Rugby from next season
Worcester Warriors are set to change their name from next season to ‘Sixways Rugby’ and have withdrawn their bid to compete in the Championship.
The Atlas consortium, which was allowed to buy the club by administrators, wants to partner with National 2 side Stourbridge from the 2023-24 season.
Under their former owners, the Warriors went into administration in September and were subsequently relegated from the Premiership.
Atlas have made the changes after pulling out of talks with the Rugby Football Union. The governing body set a 14 February deadline for Worcester to meet criteria to play in the Championship.
But Jim O’Toole, who oversaw the Worcester takeover with James Sandford, said they could not sign on.
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“There were a number of key clauses in the contract that we couldn’t sign,” O’Toole told BBC Hereford & Worcester. “We and the investors couldn’t accept them as they were too onerous.
“It would have given the RFU control over key decisions that we as a business will have to take. This decision will clearly upset and annoy a number of people. The sad fact of life is that the Worcester Warriors brand and the Worcester Warriors business is gone.
“We didn’t want to go down to the tenth tier as Worcester Warriors, so the name sadly will disappear. We are rebranding as Sixways Rugby. We’re starting afresh. We believe it is time for a new start. The church has closed down.”
Stourbridge have released a statement and said the proposed investment from the Atlas group will only be agreed if their members consent. The proposals will be discussed by members on Friday 10 February.
The club say the investment is in their player infrastructure. The Atlas group will also “provide additional coaching at all levels, assist in strengthening our volunteer coaches, and grow the community-centered game which is the heartbeat of rugby in this country.”
Club president Richard Baron said: “This is an unprecedented opportunity to put SRFC firmly on the map as a leader in rugby development in the Midlands for the foreseeable future. I hope that you will be as enthusiastic as we are in the potential of embarking on a journey that will secure rugby for many generations to come at Stourton Park.”
What has the RFU said?
The RFU has released a statement in response to Atlas’ intentions.
It said: “The RFU has been clear that its priority was to enable Worcester Warriors to play in the Championship and Worcester Warriors Women in the Premier 15s in a sustainable way.
“The information required has been asked for repeatedly and deadlines were extended to provide the best possible chance for this to happen.The RFU will now consult with the local rugby community over the proposed relocation of Stourbridge RFC and the change of name.
“Our priority is to ensure the best interests of rugby and the rugby community are preserved.”
The governing body also made it clear any name change or relocation of a club needs their approval.
Worcester Warriors: When will Championship rugby come?
O’Toole added the club’s ambition is to reach the Championship by 2026. He also pledged the owners will be “sustainable, not reckless” and that the ultimate goal is to be back in the top flight. But he added he feels the Premiership will be ring-fenced.
The Sixways stadium is being used by the women’s team, who have continued playing in the Allianz Premier 15s and now have a conditional place for next season too, and football club Worcester Raiders this season. However, O’Toole has cast doubt on their futures.
“Worcester women and Worcester Raiders will see out the season at Sixways,” added O’Toole. “But we believe we need another tenant and are in talks.”
Worcester Warriors to change name: Steve Diamond’s view
Former director of rugby Steve Diamond, who was also in the running to take the club out of administration, shared his less than positive view on the latest developments in the Worcester saga on social media.
Diamond wrote: “Goodbye Warriors. My thoughts RIP Worcester Warriors. RIP Duckworth legacy.
“RIP Warriors supporters. RIP Rugby Creditors, RIP Stourbridge RFC. RIP.Elite Rugby
“The Staff,Players & suppliers have been shafted.
“Frying pan into ? Rings a bell.”
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