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Worcester Warriors to end bid for Championship place

Worcester Warriors have withdrawn their proposal to play in the Championship next season and will rebrand as Sixways Rugby according to owners Atlas.

Warriors were given until 14th February to meet Rugby Football Union criteria to play in the second tier.

But Jim O'Toole, who led the Atlas takeover alongside James Sandford, said they have pulled out of talks.

"This is devastating news for rugby fans across the Midlands," said a government statement.

Following a meeting with the RFU over the ongoing debate about the future of professional rugby in Worcester, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport statement added: "The government has done everything it can to protect Worcester Warriors, including through financial support during the pandemic.

"Despite repeated assurances from the Atlas consortium, we are deeply disappointed that fans will no longer be able to support their club in the Championship - either next season or beyond.

"We fully support the RFU in its objective to obtain all necessary information with regards to the club's sustainability and ownership when participating in their competitions."

Former Warriors chief executive O'Toole, whose consortium only took over Worcester last week, told BBC Hereford & Worcester that their decision was due to "a number of key clauses in the contract that we and the investors couldn't accept".

"It would have given the RFU control over decisions that we as a business will have to take," he said.

"This decision will clearly upset and annoy a number of people. The sad fact of life is that the Worcester Warriors brand and the Worcester Warriors business is gone.

"We didn't want to go down to the 10th tier as Worcester Warriors, so the name sadly will disappear. We are rebranding as Sixways Rugby. We're starting afresh. We believe it's time for a new start. The church has closed down."

The RFU would need to approve any name change, as well as confirming that O'Toole and Sandford have passed the owners' test.

A statement was issued from Twickenham on Thursday, saying: "The RFU has been clear that its priority was to enable Worcester Warriors to play in the Championship and Worcester Warriors Women in the Premier 15s in a sustainable way.

"The information required has been asked for repeatedly and deadlines were extended to provide the best possible chance for this to happen."

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