The controversial takeover of Worcester Warriors is fueling a rift between the RFU and the club’s administrators – with the governing body questioning why buyers are now being approved without a fit and proper persons’ test
- There is a dispute between the RFU and Worcester Warriors administrators
- Chief executive Jim O’Toole bought the club without doing due diligence
- The governing body questioned why the bid was approved early
The controversial takeover of Worcester Warriors sparked a row between the RFU and the club’s administrators.
The Rugby Football Union has criticized administrators Begbies Traynor’s decision to approve Worcester’s buyers before they passed the governing body’s fit and proper persons’ test.
The RFU said they were surprised that Jim O’Toole’s Atlas consortium had signed a deal to buy the club and its assets without completing due diligence. Begbies has been approached for comment.
Domestic rugby chiefs said they understood all three bidders would be given the opportunity to meet the fit and proper persons test and were shocked when a deal was signed without notifying them.
O’Toole, the club’s chief executive, submitted his bid for the second time after failing to meet the RFU’s criteria in December.
The controversial takeover of Worcester Warriors sparked a dispute between the RFU and the club’s administrators
The Midlands club went into administration in September and were suspended from playing
Chief executive Jim O’Toole’s Atlas Consortium bought the club and its assets without completing due diligence
He told the Mail on Sunday that he was confident the problems would be resolved this time. He added that he felt the ruling body had ‘overreached’ themselves with the conditions laid out for prospective buyers.
O’Toole also rejected suggestions that he could potentially asset-strip the club now that his consortium owns the Sixways Stadium, the land around it and the club.
The stadium and the ground went into receivership as the club went into administration, an important distinction as the RFU was only involved in the sale of the club.
It could decide whether Worcester play professional rugby in the Championship next season. But the club’s brand and its assets will remain O’Toole’s regardless of the RFU’s decision.
‘Originally, Begbies indicated they would only deal with buyers who passed our fit and proper persons test,’ the RFU said.
‘This has changed, and Begbies has informed us that they will proceed with all bidders and that a due and proper process will be carried out in parallel.
‘Until now the advisors acting on behalf of the Atlas consortium have not provided the necessary conditions to pass the exam.
‘The RFU was very surprised that a deal was signed without notice. We understand that all three bidders will be given the opportunity to develop, and to meet the RFU’s fit and proper persons test.
‘The RFU indicated to the administrator that there was a chance of that happening.’
O’Toole dismissed suggestions he could divest the club now that his consortium owns the Sixways Stadium (pictured), the land around it and the club
The main points relate to the source of O’Toole’s funding and that his consortium is unwilling to fulfill a promise not to dump land around the stadium without approval
It is understood that the main points related to the source of funding of O’Toole and the fact that his consortium was not prepared to meet a promise not to dump land around the stadium without approval.
‘The RFU is also concerned by a previous public statement from bidders that they were prepared to acquire the site and develop it without a rugby offer,’ the RFU said. ‘The RFU cannot prevent the sale of the club’s assets.’
O’Toole has been given until February 14 to comply with the terms of the RFU takeover. The acquisition of wasps works on the same deadline also after it enters administration.
He said: ‘There is not one square centimeter of this land’s footprint [and the stadium] will be used for anything other than developments supporting the rugby club. Rugby is absolutely at the center of everything we do for it.
‘We understand the RFU’s position. We felt that was their response [to the initial bid] involved in over-reaching. We are working with them now to try and get around the three or four issues that will allow us to achieve the goal of playing in the Championship.’