March 25, 2020 / 7:50 PM / 5 days ago

RFU faces losses of up to 50 million pounds in next 18 months

LONDON (Reuters) - The Rugby Football Union (RFU) faces losses of up to 50 million pounds ($59.5 million) over the next year and a half due to the coronavirus, chief executive Bill Sweeney said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Winter Olympics - Team GB Homecoming - Heathrow Airport, London, Britain - February 26, 2018. Bill Sweeney (CEO, BOA) during the press conference. Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

The body will, however provide a 7 million-pound ($8.3 million) relief package to community clubs in England, he added in a statement after a virtual board meeting with members participating remotely.

The RFU and Wales’ governing body WRU confirmed last week the end of the 2019-20 season for all league, cup and county rugby, with the exception of the English Premiership, due to the pandemic.

England’s top-flight competition is suspended until at least April 24, with nine rounds and the playoffs still to be played.

Sweeney said the closure of Twickenham stadium, the RFU’s biggest asset and also a major cost, had a significant impact on revenues.

“Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this,” he said.

“The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.”

The BBC reported that while the pay cuts do not apply to England head coach Eddie Jones, believed to be the RFU’s highest-paid individual, it understood measures were being looked into which could involve him and his coaching staff being paid less.

Sweeney said the RFU had budgeted for a loss-making year within a four-year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 World Cup campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games.

Four Six Nations matches were postponed due to the coronavirus.

“No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown,” Sweeney said.

“We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium-term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn.”

Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic/Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ed Osmond

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