Rugby News

Rugby-RFU seeks financial help after govt postpones fans' return to stadiums

Sept 22 (Reuters) - England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) CEO Bill Sweeney painted a bleak picture for the sport as he asked the British government for financial support after its U-turn on allowing fans in limited numbers at stadiums amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament that, as part of new restrictions to tackle a second wave of COVID-19, the government was putting on hold plans for 25%-33% capacities from Oct. 1.

England are set to play three internationals in the new eight-team Autumn Nations Cup in November-December and they had been hoping to have at least 20,000 fans at Twickenham Stadium.

“With no fans this autumn we will see a 122 million pounds ($155.34 million) reduction in revenue resulting in a loss of 46 million pounds,” Sweeney said in a statement on Tuesday.

“With no fans for the Guinness Six Nations we will see a 138 million pounds reduction in revenue with a loss of 60 million pounds thereby preventing investment in areas such as the women’s elite game and community rugby.

“Premiership and Championship clubs will face significant financial hardship... Without crowds and league games, community rugby will lose an estimated 86 million pounds in revenue this season.”

In July, the RFU had projected a short-term revenue loss of 107 million pounds due to the closure of Twickenham as international matches are the main source of income for all unions.

The RFU had also proposed making 139 positions within the organisation redundant after finances took a massive hit over the last six months.

“The RFU has already made difficult decisions in significantly reducing our 7s programme, reducing investment across all areas of the game, implementing salary reductions and making 140 people redundant,” Sweeney added.

“All of these decisions will have a significant and lasting impact on rugby.

“From the outset we have been clear that an autumn without crowds would leave us with little choice but to approach government for financial help. Unfortunately, we are now in that position.”

$1 = 0.7854 pounds Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru Editing by Toby Davis