Rugby is the chief beneficiary of the Government's £300m sport bailout package
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Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs has described the Government’s Covid bailout as "a lifeline" to the league after fears that several clubs might have gone bust by Christmas.
“It’s a real lifeline,” said Childs. “The cancellation of matchday revenue created a huge crisis in our clubs as they are heavily reliant on it to be solvent. We are therefore so pleased that the Government has given aid so that we can keep paying wages.
“The money will go straight to the clubs, to the people who need it so that they can trade. We hope that this will get to them by Christmas. That gives us great comfort. This package is great news for the Premiership clubs and their communities. This lifeline is a real boon. It is pretty much wholly what we asked for. The request was for the period from October to the end of March. If the crisis goes beyond then, we will apply again to the Government.”
Rugby was the chief beneficiary of the Government bailout with £135m to be divided across the game. Premiership Rugby was awarded the chief share of £59m to be spread among its 13 members. £44m will go to the RFU, £9m to the Championship while the remaining £23m will be spread throughout the rest of the game. The monies will be divided ‘on a need basis’, with clubs making applications for financial support. Saracens, even though they are now in the Championship, are eligible as a founder member of Premiership Rugby.
The news is a timely boost for the Gallagher Premiership which begins its delayed 2020-21 season on Friday evening, only three weeks after it brought the 2019-2020 campaign to an end at Twickenham when Exeter Chiefs were crowned champions. The Chiefs are the only club in the league to return a profit. There is still no return-to-play date for the Championship, while the season for clubs below that level has already been abandoned.
Full breakdown of the Government’s new support package
Rugby had been facing a parlous future with Childs earlier warning that there was a "very real prospect" of several clubs going bust before Christmas. Players have taken 25 per cent cuts across the board and Childs stated that there was no sign that clubs would be re-visiting these arrangements.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney warned that it would take five years for the sport to recover if no fans were allowed to attend matches this season. The RFU derives 85 per cent of its income from gate receipts at Twickenham. Sweeney estimated that the union would lose £145m in revenue.
“The RFU is very reassured that Government recognises the difficult circumstances and unique challenges being faced by the whole of the Rugby Union family and we are grateful for this much-needed support and consideration in addition to the initial programmes that have been provided,” said Sweeney.
“We will continue to work with Government on the detailed follow-up discussions to find the appropriate balance between loans and grants for the different areas of the game and the models for review and distribution. This recognises the vital role that sports plays in the health of the nation and rugby volunteers and facilities across the whole of the country will play a crucial role in reuniting communities when we are able to do so.”