Wasps and Worcester's 'P shares' seized by Premiership rivals

Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Simon Massie-Taylor poses for a portrait on February 22, 2022 in Twickenham, England - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Simon Massie-Taylor poses for a portrait on February 22, 2022 in Twickenham, England - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Wasps and Worcester’s Premiership rivals are to seize the clubs’ ‘P shares’ following confirmation of their relegation to the Championship next season.

Premiership Rugby said the stricken sides’ administrators and prospective new owners had been informed of the 11 remaining top-flight teams’ intent to strip them of the shares worth £9.8 million apiece.

There had been pleas for those teams to show mercy and not forcibly purchase the P shares, which see lucrative Premiership revenues distributed among those who hold them.

But the Rugby Football Union’s decision to reject applications from Wasps and Worcester not to impose automatic relegation on them for entering administration triggered what had long been regarded as an inevitable seizure.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor told the Telegraph Sport: “We can confirm it’s our clubs’ intent to buy the P share and they do so knowing that Wasps and Worcester are going to be in the Championship next season.

“Both clubs’ prospective purchasers have also produced three-to-five-year plans which are not contingent on the P share.”

The near-£20 million cost of buying the P shares will be used to pay off Government loans given to Wasps and Worcester during the coronavirus crisis.

With 11 mouths to feed instead of 13, Premiership Rugby is expected to hand out roughly an extra £250,000 a year to each of its clubs, although that could be offset slightly by them having two fewer home matches a season.

The seizing of the P shares was criticised by Worcester’s joint administrator, Julie Palmer, of Begbies Traynor.

She said: “PRL represents the clubs that form the league. So, effectively, you’ve got the investor group making a decision on the exercise on the call option on the P share.

“I think that’s a conflict of interest because they’re exercising a decision to exercise the call option and pick up the P share as cheaply as that benefits them.

“But the thing that shouldn’t be lost sight of here is we’re trying to achieve a rescue but we’re trying to achieve the best outcome for creditors, not least DCMS.

“It’s taxpayers’ money we’re talking about here, which was used to bail out a league that appeared to be in crisis during the pandemic.”

There were also fears yesterday that efforts to rescue Warriors could be under threat over demands being made of the club’s prospective American owners by the Rugby Football Union.

Palmer refused to stoke such fears but did brand the RFU “a roadblock” to progress, saying: “They seem to have done a complete about-turn in terms of being incredibly light touch with tests for who was allowed to buy a club in the past to now, we think, being fairly onerous in terms of information that they’re asking.

“It’s US money, so some of the things they’re asking for, which might be available in the UK, aren’t necessarily available in the US.

“But we know the purchaser’s engaged with them and is hopefully reaching a position where they’re agreeing exactly what can and will be provided and what will satisfy the RFU. And there’s a very active dialogue going on there.

“That’s part of the reason why we’ve decided not to pursue the appeal against relegation, even though we felt we had grounds to do so. Because, in appealing the decision, what we would’ve then done is just delayed the process even further.”

A deadline of Monday has been set by the RFU for the sale of both Wasps and Worcester to be completed but Palmer said that had become impossible to meet.

The RFU, which was awaiting audited accounts from the company bidding for Warriors before deciding whether to approve a takeover, said it was prepared to grant “some flexibility” on the deadline.

But it added: “We do require full information to be provided in order that the necessary oversight and scrutiny can take place.”