Premiership Rugby needs ‘better visibility’ of club finances, says CEO
Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor admits there needs to be “better visibility” of club finances as the top-flight English domestic game grapples with uncertainty.
Worcester are set to be suspended from all competitions if they do not meet a Rugby Football Union deadline of 5pm on Monday showing they possess required insurance, are able to meet payroll and have a “credible plan to take the club forward”.
Warriors are burdened by debts totalling more than £25million, including at least £6m in unpaid tax, amid growing anger felt towards owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, who have been accused of asset-stripping the club.
Wasps, meanwhile, have filed a notice of their intention to appoint an administrator with the High Court.
They are being pursued for unpaid tax and have been served with a winding-up order by HM Revenue and Customs, while Wasps are also having difficulty in repaying a £35m bond that was raised to help finance their relocation from High Wycombe to Coventry eight years ago.
Developments at both clubs have dominated the start of this season’s Premiership, with Worcester now looking likely to enter administration and suspension thought to be inevitable.
“Each club model is different, and I can’t stress that enough,” Massie-Taylor said.
“These two clubs are in a situation post-Covid, right now, where one is having to renegotiate a massive bond in a very difficult bond market.
“And with Worcester, they’ve got a unique model where they don’t have a benevolent owner and there is property in play which has made it a challenge to develop in the last few years.
“We need to get better visibility of club finances. It has always been a thing where Premiership Rugby hasn’t had full oversight.
“We can administer the salary cap, but beyond that we haven’t got a clear picture, so I am flying blind on a number of these things.
“We need a basic level of financial information. That shouldn’t be a problem, but it is not something we have had oversight of. Basic, I know, but it’s important if we are going to have that sustainability.
“The clubs are willing, and with that we can have a proper understanding of our eco-system and that will help find potential future investment at club level, it helps us on the commercial front and also sets an appropriate cost-base for everyone as we manage our way out of that.”
Massie-Taylor says it would be a “doomsday scenario” if the Premiership dropped from 13 clubs to 11 because of current issues at Worcester and Wasps.
“If you look at the challenges, we need to create a product where future investors want to come into our market,” he added.
“We get there through growth, clearly, and we have got a plan we’ve been working to on that, but we also need the right structure there to get the foundations and the confidence for investment.
“We are all very confident about the product here and what we are watching.
“We have a growth plan, we’ve made progress on it and there is an element of trading our way out of this as well.
“We are a 13-team league at the moment with aspirations for a 14-team league by the end of the season. That has been agreed. But having two teams in trouble at the moment puts everything on its axis a bit.
There are no quick fixes to each of these problems
“The desire of everyone to focus on the rugby and support the rugby is my plea, but equally I can’t ignore the structural questions that people are asking.
“There are no quick fixes to each of these problems, but each club is different and we are witnessing a couple who are having their models really tested.
“We are going through a challenging few weeks here, it is going to be a really difficult couple of months and we really hope these clubs can pull through.”
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