Help us or we’ll lose clubs for good, warns RFU’s Sweeney
CEO tells Government that rugby is facing financial ruin Lack of crowds expected to cost £344m in lost revenue
For the Rugby Football Union, yesterday’s government announcement could not have been any worse, with the ban on supporters attending sporting events for six months affecting not just the autumn Nations Cup but also the entire Six Nations Championship next year.
The Rugby Football Union, which has already made 140 people redundant, predicted a total loss of revenue of £138million without crowds during that period, and an overall loss of £60 million, a huge financial blow to the governing body.
The impact on community rugby would be equally as crippling, with the RFU predicting that without crowds and league games, the grassroots game would lose £86 million.
Premiership Rugby clubs are also facing a bleak future without any government support. Several clubs are expected to go under, with predicted losses of revenue at over £120 million if no crowds are allowed at matches before April. That takes the total revenue lost for English rugby union to £344million.
Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive and his Premiership counterpart Darren Childs, both met Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, yesterday to outline the alarming extent of the damage the extended restrictions would have.
The meeting was said to have been positive, with optimism that there would be significant support.
“We understand the difficult balance the Government faces in controlling the spread of the virus while enabling parts of society and the economy to remain open,” said Sweeney. “We all need to follow the advice given and play our part in helping to get the virus under control. No crowds at Twickenham for the Autumn Quilter Internationals, the Premiership in October or the Championship and community game will, however, have severe consequences for the sport in England across all levels.
“From the outset, we have been clear that an autumn without crowds would leave us with little choice but to approach the Government for financial help.
“Unfortunately, we are now in that position. Without support we are in danger of clubs at the heart of communities across England disappearing for ever.”
Premiership Rugby is to hold separate negotiations with the Government to secure a bailout that would prevent several clubs from going out of business.
“The announcement that supporters will not be allowed into stadiums for up to six months cuts off crucial revenue for the Premiership Rugby clubs who have already suffered significant financial losses,” said Childs.
“We believe the lack of supporters in our grounds could cause irreparable damage to our clubs and the communities they serve.