Fallen rugby giants Wasps denied place in English second-tier

·3-min read
English rugby is facing a financial crisis
English rugby is facing a financial crisis

Fallen giants Wasps will "move to the bottom of the playing pyramid" it was announced Thursday after their licence to play in English rugby union's second-tier Championship next season was revoked.

Both Wasps and Worcester were dramatically expelled from this season's top-flight Premiership, reducing the league from 13 teams to 11, after entering administration in October.

Wasps' debts totalled some £95 million ($118 million, 109 million euros), with the now homeless former English and European champions taking out a £35 million bond to help finance their relocation from London to the Midlands city of Coventry in 2014.

England's governing Rugby Football Union gave Wasps' new owners, HALO22 Limited, permission to play in the Championship provided they met certain conditions.

Wasps, however, have now been sent tumbling to the tenth tier of English rugby after failing to meet an RFU deadline for providing proof the club could still operate.

Officials cited a lack of evidence that creditors have been paid and doubts over the establishment of a suitable governance structure as reasons for their decision.

Wasps also told the RFU they were unable to recruit staff or players until additional finance has been secured and so could not recommit to playing in the Championship.

"This is not the outcome anyone in rugby wanted and all those involved with the club will be deeply disappointed," said RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney in a statement.

"We have worked with the new owners for the past six months to try to ensure that a robust plan could be put in place for the club to continue to play in the Championship while players and staff could receive monies owed to them."

He added: "The RFU is working closely in partnership with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players' Association to ensure players are supported.

"We are also working together at pace to ensure the game emerges from this challenging time on a strong and sound financial footing."

- 'Investors fatigued' -

Wasps said their plans to revive the club in the Championship were effectively ended by doubts over the future structure of the league, with reports the Premiership is set to be turned into a ring-fenced, 10-team division.

"The lack of clarity on the league structure and concerns over promotion have caused the investor group to remain silent and fatigued," Wasps said in a statement.

"On two occasions we asked the RFU for an extension of time to secure funding and to satisfy the rugby creditors.

"Our requests were refused on both occasions...Indeed, the recent revelations around the possible ring-fencing of the Premiership for three to five years to protect it has further weakened our investment position."

Wasps' demotion to Counties 4 Midlands West adds to the financial turmoil that has engulfed English rugby this season.

Worcester too have been refused permission to relaunch in the Championship following a dispute between new owners Atlas and the RFU.

Meanwhile, London Irish must meet an RFU deadline of May 30 regarding the state of their finances or risk being kicked out of the Premiership as well.