The ownership of Worcester Warriors Rugby Club has changed several times since the sport turned professional.
This article takes a close look at current and former owners.
Who Owns Worcester Warriors?
Worcester Warriors Rugby Club is owned by British business partners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham. They bought the majority shareholding in 2019 from a business consortium that purchased the club the previous year.
Goldring and Whittingham own other sports interests, including Morecambe FC.
The first owner of the Warriors in the professional era was the late Cecil Duckworth. He eventually sold his majority shareholding to David Allen, a business friend.
Allen’s son Greg sold the club to a consortium of investors, who in turn sold to the current owners. Let’s work our way backward through the ownership history of the Warriors.
Colin Goldring And Jason Whittingham, Joint Owners Of Worcester Warriors
I usually write separate accounts about co-owners of clubs, but Goldring and Whittingham are so interlinked that I’ll treat them together.
Jason Whittingham – Background
Jason Whittingham is about twelve years older than his friend and business colleague. Whittingham grew up near Wolverhampton and studied business at Manchester University.
He worked in the clothing industry in London through the mid-1990s and 2000s.
Following the recession in 2008, he left clothing for pawnbroking. Whittingham eventually moved to Greece where he set up his own pawnbroking business.
When Whittingham returned to England, he set up a high-end lending business operating out of Mayfair (one of London’s top districts). This is when he met Colin Goldring, and the two men quickly became friends.
Colin Goldring – Background
Colin Goldring grew up on the Isle of Wight. He played schoolboy rugby, and would later play a bit of rugby league.
Goldring studied law at college in Hertfordshire and specialized in litigation early in his law career. He then spent some years in Monaco and Switzerland working on supercar contracts.
When Goldring returned to England, he struck up a friendship with Jason Whittingham. The two men deiced to go into business together but didn’t decide immediately on what type of business!
Buying Morecambe Football Club
Goldring and Whittingham decided that they wanted a sports club in their portfolio. The first one they jumped at was a struggling lower division football club, Morecambe FC.
The pair got involved with Morecambe in October 2017 and completed their purchase in May 2018.
Buying Worcester Warriors Rugby Club
One of the lawyers that worked for the two businessmen on the Morecambe purchase was also involved with recruiting investment in Worcester Warriors, which had recently been bought by a Consortium. (I’ll cover the Consortium later).
Goldring and Whittingham joined the board of directors of Worcester Warriors in 2018. This was just sixteen days after the rugby club was purchased by the group of investors. I assume that they bought a minority shareholding at that time.
In 2019, Goldring and Whittingham completed their purchase of the majority shareholding of Worcester Warriors from the investment consortium.
2018-2019: The Consortium that Owned Worcester Warriors
In 2018, the Worcester Warriors were owned by a private company called Sixway Holdings, which was headed by Greg Allen. I’ll look at Allen (and his father) in the next section.
For now, I’ll say that Allen had sunk millions of investment into the club over several years. But in the summer of 2017, he started the process of putting the club up for sale.
Warriors for sale
There were several interested parties sniffing around. That included the Scottish Rugby Union, who may have wanted to move the club further north. The local fans were understandably worried.
But a former owner, Cecil Duckworth, was still President of the club. He and the other directors made it clear that a successful bidder would have to commit to keeping the club in Worcester.
In 2018, a consortium of investors purchased the majority shareholding in Worcester Warriors.
The consortium included:
- Errol Pope, a property and commodity trader
- Jed McCrory, former owner of Swindon FC
- David Seymour, former player with Saracens and Sale
- Scott Priestnall, businessman in the hospitality industry
Pope provided most of the financial backing, but Jed McCrory was the frontman with the media.
McCrory was already well known for a brief rollercoaster stint with Swindon FC. He had headed a consortium that bought the football club in 2013. This led to a boardroom split, which eventually ended up in the High Court.
Unfortunately for McCrory, he was on the wrong side of the legal battle. And according to a local newspaper, the judge was none too happy about some of his testimony.
“I frankly don’t believe Mr. McCrory’s evidence”.Judge’s comments reported by the Swindon Advertiser, June 2014
The Warriors fans weren’t entirely enthused by the rumbunctious history of their new owner.
However, McCrory was also a local man. He was living in Alcester, which is a stone’s throw from Worcester. That matters to supporters, as it seemed less likely that he’d be rushing to move the club.
Selling to Goldring And Whittingham
There seemed to be a very short turnaround from the Consortium buying the Warriors, and then selling on the majority shareholding to Goldring and Whittingham.
But two of the consortium, Errol Pope and Scott Priestnall, moved swiftly on to purchase Yeovil Town FC.
David And Greg Allen, Former Owners of Worcester Warriors
By 2013, Cecil Duckworth had owned and funded Worcester Warriors for about sixteen years. He was looking to sell to a committed buyer. He was friendly with David Allen, and the two successful businessmen did a deal.
David Allen went backpacking across Australia as a young man. He funded his travels through bar work and taxi driving. Through running deliveries by taxi, he started working for DHL Australia in 1972. At the time, it was a small courier business.
Allen rose through the managerial ranks in DHL Australia. Through the 70s, He was responsible for expanding DHL across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
As the CEO who oversaw explosive growth to make DHL the first global courier, Allen was compensated handsomely.
David Allen was friendly with Cecil Duckworth and listened with interest as Duckworth spoke about securing a buyer for Warriors.
In 2013, Allen agreed to invest funds into the club and become the majority shareholder. However, Allen lives in Geneva and didn’t intend to take a hands-on role on the board. Instead, he handed that role to his son, Greg.
Greg Allen is a son of David Allen. He joined the board of Worcester Warriors in 2014.
For the next few years, the Allen family continued to fund the club. However, the Warriors were racking up financial losses.
In the summer of 2017, Greg Allen put the club up for sale. A year later, he sold the majority shareholding to the business consortium I described in the previous section.
Cecil Duckworth, Former Owner
The late Cecil Duckworth was born in Cheshire in 1937. He moved to Worcester in his late teens to start an apprenticeship role as a mechanical engineer.
Duckworth founded Worcester Engineering in 1962. His company was a small local business until 1970 when he introduced one of the first combi-boilers. His business expanded rapidly for the next twenty years.
Bosch, the giant German company, bought Duckworth’s business in 1992. It’s estimated that Duckworth took home £30m from the deal.
Buying Worcester Warriors
When the sport of Rugby Union went professional in 1995, Worcester Rugby Club wasn’t in the top English division.
They were a big club with a long history, but the club blazers recognized that they’d fall even further behind unless they secured outside investment.
Duckworth was a club supporter and he was convinced that the club needed to go down the professional route. In 1997, he took the majority shareholding in return for putting considerable funding into the club.
The local businessman and philanthropist continued to fund the Warriors for over a decade. This included the development of top-notch facilities at Sixways.
Although Duckworth had retired from the engineering industry in 1996, he also had property interests. In 2009, he was estimated to be worth about £45m.
Duckworth donated large sums to local health and education charities.
And rugby wasn’t Duckworth’s only sporting interest. He was also Club President of Worcestershire Country Cricket Club.
Stepping down from the club
When Duckworth sold his shares to David Allen, he also stepped down as Chairman in 2015.
However, he accepted the role of President.
Duckworth died in 2020 at the age of 83.
This article has covered people who I’ve referred to the owners of the club. Technically, the ownership was through limited liability companies.
I’ll list the ones I know of here:
- Hockley Investments Ltd
- Sixways Holdings
- Worcester RFC Ltd
Other Premiership Owners
During the amateur era, Rotherham were Worcester’s traditional rivals.
However, Gloucester is now the local derby game. You can read our article on the the ownership of Gloucester Rugby.
We also have a full round-up of all premiership rugby club owners.