Stricken rugby club players secure compensation from tribunal

Players from collapsed rugby clubs Worcester Warriors, Wasps and London Irish will receive compensation following several successful employment tribunal proceedings.

The Rugby Players Association brought about claims on behalf of 167 of its members from the three clubs, after they failed to consult with players before making them redundant.

All players, as well as non-playing staff were made redundant without notice when the clubs fell into administration and became insolvent.

A DCMS report said last January that when Worcester Warriors collapsed in October 2022, accounts had not been filed for more than a year, with reports of player salaries being paid late from May alongside its “unscrupulous owners” mismanaging club finances while “attempting to strip the club of its assets”.

The report concluded that at Wasps, which entered administration days after Warriors, debt from a “disastrous and ill-thought-through relocation to Coventry crippled the club financially”.

London Irish fell into administration last June after its owner pulled funding and failed to sell it to an American bidder.

Players have been awarded with the highest possible protective award, made by the National Insurance Fund.

The RPA was guided by Clarke Willmott LLP throughout this process.

RPA’s player welfare director, Rich Bryan, said: “The RPA team has left no stone unturned in providing its support to its members in the lead up to and following the demise of Worcester, Wasps and London Irish. We have provided legal advice at every turn, mental health support, one to one Player Development Manager support and career transition support, to name just a few areas.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our team members who were absolutely committed to meeting the incredible challenge posed by three Premiership clubs disappearing in one season. Pursuing the protective award claims on behalf of our members was just another example of the RPA demonstrating how essential our service is.

“The compensation is capped and so players will not receive all of the money owed to them by the clubs and nothing can fully compensate players, staff and fans for what was lost but we hope this compensation will, in some way, help the players.”

Elliott Stooke, formerly of Wasps, said: “This tribunal ruling demonstrates the incredible work that the RPA continues to do for me and other players around the league. They have actively pursued the protective award claims and this financial assistance will providing a foundation for many players and staff in rebuilding and moving forward with financial reassurance.”

Matt Rogerson, former London Irish captain, added: “London Irish going into administration and everyone losing their jobs was incredibly hard. Whilst compensation doesn’t make up for what occurred, I’m grateful that the Employment Tribunal has ruled in our favour. I am also thankful to the RPA for pursuing the protective award on our behalf. It demonstrates the importance of an organisation like the RPA in representing its members in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Graham Kitchener, former Worcester second row, said: “Following sudden redundancy at Worcester Warriors, the RPA took action, tirelessly fighting for our best interests as players. The outcome of these Protective Award claims, driven by Rich Bryan at the RPA, will serve as a crucial financial safety net, providing stability for players and their families by addressing immediate needs and offering a sense of security for the future.”