Premiership: Worcester Warriors staff demand answers after the club’s liquidation

James While
Worcester Warriors players and staff at Sixways 2022 - PA.jpg

Former head of communications at Worcester Warriors Paul Bolton joins Planet Rugby features writer James While to discuss the recent happenings at the Premiership club, who were placed in compulsory liquidation on Wednesday.

In rugby, you meet characters from all parts of the sport. Groundsmen, physiotherapists, ticketing officials and more. Bolton is one of those – a seasoned professional who spent years learning his craft in the local papers before going on to a distinguished career in both rugby and his other love, cricket.

Throughout the whole Warriors debacle, their communications team have been giants of engagement, openness and honesty, all done without a cent in payment.

While caught up with well-informed Bolton to get his thoughts on what has happened.


“The over-riding emotion at what has happened to Warriors is great sadness that so many good people have been thrown on the scrapheap because of appalling financial and business management,” said Bolton.

“There are a lot of fantastic people at Warriors – on and off the pitch – but we have been betrayed, not just by the owners, but by the entire board who seem to have been asleep at the wheel while the club has been hurtling towards oblivion.

“I have been brought up to treat people as they treat me and, as the owners have shown total contempt for the staff, I’ve now got nothing but total contempt for them.

“They haven’t been seen at Sixways for months, they haven’t had the courage or basic common decency to speak to staff face to face. Instead, they’ve opted to communicate via a series of increasingly preposterous and desperate statements.

“They’ve blamed local MPs for not finding new owners for the club, staff for raising concerns that we were not being paid and then, most pathetically, they turned on the players and supporters with that bizarre statement last Friday.”


“In none of their rants has there been a scintilla of genuine apology or an acceptance that this whole sorry mess is the result of a business plan that seemed to consist of: borrow as much of other people’s money as we can, spend it and then try to find another mug to lend us more.

“Shamefully, they have not once apologised to suppliers – who are now creditors of the club – for refusing to pay outstanding invoices unless they were forced to do so by a county court injunction.

“Some of these companies have been loyal supporters of the club for years but they’ve been treated with total disdain by the board,” he remarked.


“Worcester is a club with a proud history – one left by a tough but very successful businessman, Cecil Duckworth. A man that drove the hardest of bargains with his electrical company Bosch, but a man that cared and whilst tough, was also fair!

“The owners also like to talk a lot about honouring Cecil Duckworth’s legacy but all they have done through their actions is to dishonour his gift to the city.

“The role that the RFU, Premiership Rugby and Sport England have played in this debacle which raise some serious questions that can only be properly answered by an independent inquiry.

“RFU and PRL are supposed to be there to protect the interests of the game and those who participate and work within it. Allowing more than 200 staff at Warriors just to become collateral damage suggests that they are either unwilling or incapable of doing that.”


“Probably the best forum for a detailed investigation is the DCMS select committee. We have to make sure that this does not happen to another club again, but it will unless there is full and immediate investigation in public, not behind closed doors at Twickenham or PRL’s offices in London.

“Worcester councillor Richard Udall, who has been a fantastic supporter of the club over the years, has already written to Julian Knight MP who chairs that committee and Robin Walker MP is also keen for the Warriors situation and the broader governance of professional rugby in England to be investigated,” continued Bolton.

“RFU and PRL – neither of which, in my opinion, is fit for purpose as a regulatory body, simply because there are too many vested interests and those with the fattest wallets shout the loudest – have been allowed to mark their own homework for far too long. That can’t be allowed to continue.”


“We need a detailed investigation in public under parliamentary privilege so that Warriors’ owners and board members and senior figures at the RFU, PRL and Sport England – who have been party to some interesting land transactions at Sixways in recent months – can be interrogated and relevant documents produced and scrutinised.

“We need to know who decided back in 2018 that a former pawnbroker and a trainee solicitor – which is what Colin Goldring was until early 2019 – were fit and proper people to be owners of a Premiership club and what their business plan was.

“Both they and PRL also need to explain why they allowed Goldring to remain as an owner after it became known in July this year that he had been barred from the legal profession for the protection of the public by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

“Goldring released a statement after the SRA judgment was picked up by the national media in which he claimed that the regulatory bodies of both sports – rugby and football – had been made aware of the case and were satisfied that he was still a fit and proper person to own a Premiership Rugby club and Football League club, Morecambe.

“He has yet to produce written evidence to substantiate that claim. In fact, subsequent events suggest the opposite was true.”

Proper scrutiny

“In September it was revealed that the EFL had actually decided that Goldring was no longer a fit and proper person to own a football club,” added Bolton.

“At the same time the RFU issued a statement in which they confirmed that their investigation into Goldring’s SRA judgment remained open but they had paused it to allow him to focus on Warriors’ financial position.

“But there was a six-week gap between the SRA judgment becoming public and the news that Warriors had been issued with a winding-up petition by HMRC. So, what on earth were the RFU’s legal and disciplinary department doing during that period?” argued the former head of communications.

“Given that Goldring’s SRA hearing revolved around the mysterious disappearance of more than £7 million of a client’s money which been transferred from his firm’s account to third parties, it does seem astonishing that someone at the RFU thought it was a better idea to allow him to deal with Warriors’ finances rather than proceed with their fit and proper person review.

We need to know who was involved in that decision making – or in this case non-decision making – process and the best place for that to take place is under the independent scrutiny of the DCMS Select Committee.”

We thank Paul for his time.

READ MORE: Worcester Warriors: The RFU maps the way forward after liquidation