They ran out to a guard of honour from unpaid staff – and trudged off fearing it could be for the last time.
Steve Diamond’s Worcester fulfilled their opening home Premiership fixture through the selflessness of people whose bank accounts are running on empty.
It made for an emotionally charged occasion at Sixways and with no funds to pay for Wednesday’s Premiership Cup match at Gloucester, there is a danger it could be the last time.
“It’s a week-by-week process at the minute,” admitted Diamond. “It’s quite embarrassing for us to call ourselves a high-performance environment and for me to be involved when we are dealing with what we are dealing with.
“We are on the never-never at the minute, we can’t keep going, An answer is going to have to come this week
“A line has got to be drawn. I thought last week was the line and the staff by hook or by crook decided, no, we will get the game on.
“But the players I don’t think have been paid their August salary. They’re now working in arrears. They keep putting their body on the line. I can’t tell you how many times they’re going to do that.”
Cue a fresh promise from the co-owners who, half an hour before kick-off, released a statement saying they hoped to be in a position to make a formal announcement on a buyer in 48 hours.
If that sounds like deja vu it is because the same was said a week ago.
Yet co-owner Jason Whittingham insisted: “The buyer is absolutely committed to rugby at Sixways, is aware of the immediate cash requirements and has confirmed their willingness to inject funds early next week.”
Whittingham added that he was keeping Diamond up to speed on developments, which seemed to come as news to the former Sale man.
Furthermore, Diamond vowed to probe claims that some staff had been threatened for posting on social media a statement critical of the hierarchy.
“If anybody has been threatened or bullied in the building, which allegedly has happened, I can’t believe it and we need to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “People have given up their free time and volunteered to come into work when they’re not getting paid.”
Into this maelstrom stepped 5,000 fans determined to show their support.
“It was more important than ever to give our ticket money today,” said Warriors supporter Henry Appleby. “This is needs must.”
With 65 minutes on the clock they rose to their feet to show solidarity with Warriors staff who have received only 65% of their salary.
Nick Browning/News Images)
“I was thinking they should have clapped at zero [minutes] for those who haven’t had any,” quipped Diamond.
In such trying circumstances it was a heroic effort by a Warriors team that only knew the game was going ahead on Friday afternoon.
Diamond promised them a “b***ocking” for giving away 16 penalties and losing half their lineouts.
Deep down, of course, he was proud as punch of how they pushed Exeter all the way – playing in last season’s kit as the new one, like so much else, had not been paid for.
WORCESTER – Tries: Hearle, Simpson, Lawrence. Cons: Williams 2, Searle.
EXETER – Tries: Simmonds, Capstick 2, Woodburn, Maunder. Cons: Simmonds 4. Pen: Simmonds.