Worcester owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham borrowed £500,000 from Cecil Duckworth during the club icon’s ‘dying days’ and have failed to repay the debt.
As the embattled pair face mounting pressure from the RFU over their mishandling of the stricken Warriors, Mail Online Sport can reveal that they accepted financial support from Duckworth soon after taking control at Sixways in 2018.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the large sum received has not been paid back.
This revelation will horrify those within the club and the rugby community around Worcester, who share such admiration for Duckworth; an adored local businessman and philanthropist.
He began his association with the Warriors in 1997 and oversaw their rise from the lower leagues, all the way to the Premiership, as executive chairman and a generous investor.
He combined his rugby activities with charitable work and went on to become president of Worcestershire County Cricket Club.
Duckworth died in November, 2020, at the age of 83, after suffering from cancer, and a subsequent inquest concluded that it had been caused by inhaling asbestos many years earlier.
He had long since ended any direct financial involvement with Worcester, but – while ill, in his Eighties – opted to loan money to Goldring and Whittingham. One source said: ‘He trusted them and they betrayed him.’
The Duckworth family have been alarmed by the recent turmoil at the club which Cecil worked so hard to develop over so many years.
In a statement released in August, after it emerged that the Warriors were facing a winding-up order from HMRC, they wrote: ‘The Duckworth family are very saddened by the recent news at Worcester Warriors.
‘Cecil and others spent many years building up the rugby club and know he would be devastated by the events which are unfolding. Our thoughts are with the staff and players.’
Meanwhile, the RFU have ramped up the pressure on Goldring and Whittingham, at a time when their proposed sale of Worcester has stalled again.
Mail Online Sport understands that the buyer who has been in negotiations with the owners recently has confirmed that a buy-out will not take place, unless the Warriors go into administration, to allow some of the near-£30million debt to be cleared and a forensic investigation of financial activities to take place.
This means that the unknown second buyer is waiting in the wings, as are the consortium led by former chief executive Jim O’Toole, who have insisted on administration as a condition of taking over, but have funds in place.
Last Sunday, Whittingham claimed that a deal was likely to be done within 48 hours, but that deadline passed at 2pm yesterday.
Now, the club hierarchy have been warned by the union at Twickenham that they must provide assurances by noon tomorrow about their ability to stage Saturday’s Premiership game against Newcastle at Sixways, or Worcester will be suspended from all competitions.
In addition, they must provide – by 5pm on Monday – proof of suitable insurance and payment of all outstanding August wages, to staff and players.
The owners must also give clear evidence of ‘a robust and fully financed plan for the future viability of the club’, as well as identifying a proposed buyer and the structure of the deal.
Furthermore, the RFU want to see details of proposed cash injections and how the club will pay September wages by the end of the month.
A letter sent to the owners by the union states: ‘Whilst we appreciate that this will be unwelcome news, it is clear that the current state of affairs cannot continue.’