By A38
It's sometimes useful to look back and see how we came to where we are. Sometimes it's salutary, sometimes just sad.

Below are the notes I made at a Sixways meeting some six years ago. They include names of the past, both on and off the pitch, but looking back I can see a time when the Club was on the market, Greg Allen wishing to sell.

Notes on Meeting at Sixways – 31 October 2017.

McKay, Bolsover, Hogg

• The key question of the evening was the first. When would we know who would be running the Club in the future and who would be the D of R.

• There was no clear answer. The Club is on the market for either an outright sale or for an investment coming in. 3 / 4 parties have signalled serious intent. Confidentiality agreements prevented any concrete information.

• Greg Allen, who owns the Club, has yet to make up his mind as to whether he wants an outright sale or whether to stay involved. Also there are different ways in which a sale could be structured. For instance, it would be possible for the Club to be sold to a purchaser but Allen would retain the freehold (stands, pitch, grounds etc) and rent it out at a peppercorn cost. However a precondition of this would be that the purchaser would have to guarantee the ability to fund the Club in the Premiership for at least 5 years.

• Unlikely that anything will be resolved in the very short term. Final decision will be Greg Allen’s.

• He has taken the decision that he didn’t want to keep putting money into the Club.

• It was unfortunate that news of his wish to sell / dilute came out, especially the timing mid season. Not in the Club’s hands but response was required and the decision was taken to confirm rather than prevaricate.

• Greg Allen’s requirement is that the Club must be in the position to stay in the Premiership. He is prepared to forego cash (his investment to date) and will not asset strip. The “P” shares have a considerable value especially as the Premiership clubs collectively would like to see them confined to 12 shareholders rather than 13 as at present.

• But as no detailed bids have yet to be submitted, as distinct from expressions of interest, no indication as to how the Club will look in the future can be given.

• However there was confirmation that if a sale could not be agreed Greg Allen would continue to support the club financially – but it was not clear at what level.

• Griffiths had not made an official bid for the Club. He did have private discussions with Greg Allen but it was never clear who the investor would be. The process, if process it was, was described as being messy and too long drawn out. In the end, Greg Allen called time.

• Worcester is by no means not the only Club on the market. It is known that 4 or 5 other Clubs would be sold “tomorrow” if there were buyers. Some like Gloucester and Northampton have been inherited by the children of former owners who do not have the same desire as their parents.

• The situation with a new D of R is as uncertain as the future ownership of the Club. The decision has been taken to go ahead with advertising the job and to date the quality of the applicants has been impressive. The situation the Club was in seemed not to be a drawback.

• The problem however is that a new owner might or might not want to bring in his own D of R. That said, an appointment would have to be made shortly after Christmas at the very latest.

• It was accepted that player recruitment was an issue and that the timing was far from perfect. Meanwhile Gary Gold would contribute significantly to the recruitment process which was already under way.

• It was also accepted that the Club needs stability. Dean Ryan had a long term rolling contract unique in the Premiership for exactly that reason. But he chose to leave for the RFU job and although he was under contract the Club did not want to keep him if he didn’t want to be there.

• A deal was agreed with Gary Gold for this season. There is a family issue with one of his children and he does need to be in South Africa to support his wife. His absences have been pre-agreed for that reason.

• The Club knew of his desire to manage a national side. When the USA job was offered to him he discussed everything with the Club and he agreed to see the season out. The news of the appointment had to be released as otherwise it would have leaked. However, rumours have circulated that he would not be coming back to the Club. He will and he is due back shortly in time for the Northampton game. In fact, because of the rumours he offered to come back earlier.

• There is the possibility that he might leave the Club for the USA before the end of the season if a new D of R is appointed who could start immediately. Many candidates however would have contracts running – certainly to the end of the season and this might not be possible.

• Until he leaves, Gary Gold is fully committed to the Club and is in constant, daily touch.

• The question of a top class 10 came up several times in the evening as did goal kicking percentages. Top flight 10s and kickers (not necessarily the same players) were very expensive.

• That said, the Club is very well aware of the problem and the huge benefit a top class 10 would bring but money is not the issue. When Flood came on the market the Club tried hard to attract him. Two other 10s of similar quality were also heavily pursued but all three declined Worcester.

• The club’s goal kicking statistics this season are about 56%. Ideally any club would want a 90% kicker. Paul Grayson is still at the Club two days a week. Sometimes the problem is mental rather than physical.

• It is felt that Worcester is two or three pivotal players away from mid table security.

• There were two basic models to progress as A Premiership club: investment in future generations (Exeter) and buying in experienced players (Saracens). Under Dean Ryan, major money was put into the Academy and all support facilities and a decision taken to integrate young players coming through into the squad. This was now happening but the key to keeping the quality young players was getting the likes of Singleton, Spencer and Schonert into the England squad. Once young players could see that progression at Worcester they would stay (it was felt!)

• One questioner asked about the injury replacements at the Quins’ game and wondered why Lance had been moved to 12 at half time rather than bringing on Hammond at that time. The reason had to do with keeping the defensive line as strong as possible. The impression was given that Hammond had work to do on his defence.

• The question of injuries was raised. There is no statistical evidence to point to any one or two particular reasons. There is no reason to blame the pitch at Sixways. Across the Premiership injuries are high but clubs such as Wasps have far greater strength in depth. It was stated that across the Premiership 25% of players were currently injured but Worcester’s recently reduced squad made it more exposed than hitherto.

• One major factor though was the greater care taken with concussion. This was not only for the welfare of the individual player but also from the risk of litigation. Apparently cases are starting to be brought in American Football with dementia figuring.

• Hougaard and Mills should, all being well, be available for the Northampton game if not before. The Club does get compensation for Hougaard whilst he is away playing for SA but it was not clear if that covered his absence from the field through injury occurred whilst playing for SA. He has another year to run on his contract and the impression was given that the club were talking to him about his future beyond that.

• Meanwhile praise was given to Arr for his continuing loyalty to the Club and for the way he and Lance had managed the game against Quins.

• Communication by the Club came up several times. JO’T had been very active in that field and perhaps the Club had gone too far the other way? The Club accepts the need for improvement but it has been rather on the back foot in PR terms ever since the news of a potential sale came out. The Club is asked for a statement almost every day. Various suggestions were made from the floor including the reinstatement of a supports forum on the official website. The Club will look at all the suggestions made to see if improvements could be made. Some supporters felt that they should get their news about the Club from the club rather than from the Worcester News.

• With the Club now losing between £2.5 and £3 million a year the question was asked as to what the Club could do to generate additional commercial income. The Bryan Adams concert had brought in £70,000 and more concerts were planned for the future. A second major sponsor would be looked for and the naming rights for the Stadium were on offer.

• It was however readily accepted that the best source of additional income was the team winning on the pitch. A sold out game was worth £200,000 to the club, a far lower gate considerably less. The real attendance for the Brive game was some 4,500.

• The possibility of building a new North Stand complete with hotel and retail outlets was mentioned but the problem here was the capital outlay.

• Defence was still a problem although more time was being spent on it than in previous years. There was a new coach and a new structure. There had to be a balance between defence and attack and the Quins game had shown the potential of an attack which had scored 6 tries.

• The rugby squad costs £10 million a season. Worcester are running inside the salary cap.

• The question was asked about the giving away of free tickets. Hitherto this has not happened but there was general approval in the room when it was said that free tickets will be distributed to schools for a forthcoming Euro game. If successful it will be repeated but not for Premiership games.

• There were comments about the spectator experience. Although Sixways was a fine stadium it was not possible at half time for supporters to do all that was necessary – food, drink etc. This was possible at Northampton. Improvements had been made at Sixways and attention had been given to reducing queues. It was not perfect and more effort will be put into trying to get better.

• Prices of beer and food were felt to be higher than at other Clubs. The sponsorship deal with the brewery meant that beer had to be brought in at a certain price and there was minimal mark up. A portion of chips, it was claimed from the floor, should not however cost £2.50 when it was made up of only one potato!

• The Club will be examining improving the floodlights, the possibility of a second big screen, the introduction of a “happy hour” after the games and the loudspeaker in the West Stand.

• There was negative comment about Friday night games. Some of these are at the behest of TV but the rugby management favoured them as it was felt that it was more difficult for an away team to play at Sixways on a Friday. There would be a home advantage and statistics had been produced to suggest that Worcester had picked up substantially more points on a Friday night in the past than on Saturdays. It does have to be said that this comment was met with some derision in the room.

I must say that I cannot remember the meeting in any detail - but I do remember the potato!
I do hope you were able to cut and paste that from somewhere!

Interesting history though, and I remember the meeting well, particularly since it was me praising the setup at Franklin’s Gardens. Now my favourite Premiership Stadium of course.

As we move into yet another phase of “what next” I suppose we wait with interest to see what transpires at the WWST meeting early Dec.
Depressing to realise that all that was 6 years ago, and nothing could be sorted in that time. It really doesn't hold out much hope for the long-term of the Premiership unless some fairly drastic action is taken (although I don't know what that could be!). The comment about Wasps is particularly ironic!

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