London Welsh Rugby Football Club, one of England’s oldest clubs, is facing a winding up order from HMRC in the High Court on Monday, less than two months after it escaped a similar petition.
In the first week of September, the club put out a statement saying ‘London Welsh RFC s pleased to confirm reports that the petition presented to the High Court this morning to wind up the club and place it into liquidation was dismissed.’
The statement went on to say: ‘Coupled with this, the club is also delighted to announce the recent signing of a sale and purchase agreement for the acquisition of the club by a major Californian based investment group, which is only subject to formal approval by the RFU.
‘The financial security which will be afforded the club as a result of this new investment will now enable it to plan for the future with confidence and renewed enthusiasm.’
At the time, Bleddyn Phillips, London Welsh club chairman, said: ‘We are thrilled and very excited to be able to announce the arrival of a new owner which will provide the club with the financial strength to sustain its ambition to be not only a competitive rugby team playing in the top tiers of the game in the UK but, equally importantly, to consolidate and enhance its social, community and amateur based activities at its spiritual home at Old Deer Park.’
However, a new HMRC winding up order involving London Welsh is listed for a hearing on Monday 31 October at the High Court.
Formed in 1885, London Welsh has seen its fortunes on the pitch slide in recent year. An English Premiership side as recently as 2015, the club finished bottom of the table that year after losing all 22 games. Currently London Welsh is seventh in the English Championship after losing four out of six matches this season.
It has had an equalled troubled time financially, with the accounts showing losses for the last financial year of almost £2m. In 2009 London Welsh was taken over by Neil Hollinshead, who claimed he would invest £1m a year in the club thanks to his connections to a Saudi Arabian investment group. He was later jailed for defrauding the club of £350,000, with the judge describing him as ‘despicable’.
London Welsh entered administration on that occasion and were saved by benefactor Kelvin Byron, who was the majority shareholder at the time, but he has since severed connections with the club.
The club has said it will be making no further comment at this time.