MP slams ‘shambolic’ RFU after Wasps and Worcester financial troubles

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney has been accused of being ‘asleep at work’ following the financial crises that forced Premiership clubs Worcester Warriors and Wasps into office.

Sports governing bodies appeared before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on Thursday to answer questions about their handling of the collapse.

Worcester took office in September and Wasps followed suit the following month, both owing unpaid taxes. Both clubs, who have a rich history in the Premiership, were later relegated from the top flight.

MP Julian Knight, chairman of the DCMS committee, called the loss of both Premiership sides “a failure of the game on an epic scale” and suggested Sweeney should “review” his position. Sweeney was also criticized for not changing the fit and suitable person test even after learning that former Warriors co-owner Colin Goldring had been sanctioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

“It frankly seems to me that you seem to be living in isolation in your ivory tower,” Knight said. “That story is as old as the hills, allowing someone who you later find out has been banished by the SRA from a major institution to retain ownership of a rugby club, and you don’t. not even ban after driving it into the field?

“You, frankly, failed in this case, and so did the RFU. Shouldn’t you look at your own position?”

Sweeney said testing existing owners was “not sufficient” and would be “necessary” for a system in which club owners face ongoing reviews of their fitness to run clubs.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor has also faced criticism from the select committee. Knight drew the comparison to the world of football to highlight the harm of losing two of 13 top clubs.

“If that had happened in the Premier League, or even in the league, which is a full basket case… it would effectively be four clubs,” Knight said.

“If that happened, the Premier League chief would resign immediately. I don’t know how you can come before this committee today and say what you said with a straight face, frankly.

“I’ve dealt with football. I thought it was bad. But I’ve never encountered anything as chaotic as this… the lack of care and the lack of thought, towards people in your own game, throughout my time as a select committee member.”

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