Wasps: Club has Championship licence revoked and plummet to bottom of playing pyramid

Adam Kyriacou
Wasps sign at venue

Wasps have been dealt a major setback after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) withdrew their licence to continue playing in the English league structure.

The shock decision that Wasps will not be able to play in the Championship next season is a seismic blow for a club that is still reeling from relegation.

Wasps now drop to the bottom of the playing pyramid as certainty can be provided to the Championship clubs over the season structure for 2023/24.

Lack of progress from Wasps

“In order to be sure that Wasps were in a position to play in the Championship, the RFU set a deadline for the club to meet the commitments it had made when the licence was first approved and recommit to participating in the Championship in 2023/24,” read an RFU statement released on Thursday.

“These included evidencing payment to Rugby Creditors and putting in place suitable governance structures including a majority independent Board and a process for managing risk.

“The RFU was also concerned about the lack of progress engaging coaching staff and players. The club stated that it could not meet these commitments, recommit to participating in the Championship in 2023/24 or engage staff of players until further finance was secured.

“The RFU had worked with the club’s new owners to give the club the best chance of continuing in the league structure and recognises the effort the new owners have put in to try to make this happen. However, the RFU Board decided that in order to give certainty to other clubs, the licence to continue to play is withdrawn.”

Sweeney deeply disappointed

Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “This is not the outcome anyone in rugby wanted and all those involved with the club will be deeply disappointed.

“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.

“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.”

Wasps were once a heavyweight club in the game, winning six Premiership titles and two European Cups, boasting such rugby greats as Phil Vickery, Lawrence Dallaglio, Josh Lewsey, Simon Shaw, Paul Sackey, Raphael Ibanez and Trevor Leota.

Their demotion to the bottom of the playing pyramid is another depressing episode in the English club game’s battle with its shaky financial foundations.

Wasps not alone in struggles

The ambitions that Worcester could be relaunched in the Championship have also ended because of a dispute over terms between their new owners Atlas and the RFU.

Wasps were intending to play their home games at Worcester’s ground Sixways, paying Atlas a fee to do so.

London Irish are the latest club to find themselves in a perilous position with the RFU setting a deadline of May 30 to sure up their finances or risk being removed from the Premiership.

Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs have also felt the pinch and needed additional financing earlier in the season to stay afloat.

READ MORE: Jasper Wiese: Springbok number eight’s fine form rewarded with Players’ Player of the Year award