Wasps denied Championship entry as RFU withdraw licence due to ‘lack of progress’ concerns
Wasps’ chances of reforming have been dealt a crippling blow by being denied entry into next season’s Championship.
The RFU has withdrawn Wasps’ playing licence, meaning the two-time Heineken Cup winners would have to start from the foot of the game’s pyramid next season.
Wasps fell into administration in October and were later bought by former director Chris Holland. The five-time Premiership champions were the second top-flight club to fold in the season, following Worcester Warriors.
A consortium of former Wasps players, backed by Holland, had been bidding to rescue the decorated club. But attempts at securing funding have come up short, with Wasps unable to provide strong enough plans for next season on coaching set-up and playing staff.
Wasps’ administration forced the club to sell their Premiership Rugby P Share, entitling the club to a section of central league revenue.
Potential investors were not prepared to back the club in its new guise without that crucial P Share of central funding, it is understood.
“The RFU has withdrawn the licence for Wasps to continue to play in the league structure,” read a governing body statement.
“This means that Wasps will not be able to play in the Championship next season.
“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.
“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 or player until further finance was secured.”
The RFU’s ruling on expelling Wasps will now allow for the make-up of next season’s Championship division to be finalised, with Worcester having also failed to make the grade to join the second tier.
English club rugby’s very future remains on a knife edge, with London Irish just days away from an RFU deadline to complete their long-mooted takeover or prove their funding for 2023/24.
“The RFU had worked with Wasps’ 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,” the RFU said.
“However the RFU board decided that in order to give certainty to other clubs, the licence to continue to play is withdrawn.”
Wasps’ new owner Holland has made a £1.15million loan to Worcester’s new proprietors, the Atlas Group. That payment was delivered to secure a three-year lease for Wasps to play at Worcester’s Sixways ground, but that arrangement will now be void.
Atlas had promised top-level rugby in Worcester next season, but with no sign of Warriors reforming that vow appears hollow.
“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.
“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.”