Grass-roots clubs at risk as start of sea­son is de­layed

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Gavin Mairs

Grass-roots rugby in Eng­land re­ceived a dev­as­tat­ing blow with news that the start of league sea­sons had been de­layed un­til Jan­uary “at the ear­li­est” be­cause of Covid-19 re­stric­tions.

The de­ci­sion, taken by the Rugby Foot­ball Union’s gov­er­nance com­mit­tee, will in­crease fears about the vi­a­bil­ity of many com­mu­nity clubs.

The post­pone­ment af­fects all or­gan­ised leagues with the ex­cep­tion of the Premier­ship, Cham­pi­onship and Pre­mier 15s.

The RFU chief ex­ec­u­tive, Bill Sweeney, had fore­cast on Tues­day that “with­out crowds and league games com­mu­nity rugby will lose an es­ti­mated £86mil­lion” in rev­enue this sea­son fol­low­ing the Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ex­tend the ban on sup­port­ers un­til March.

Anal­y­sis has re­vealed that com­mu­nity clubs, many al­ready with cash prob­lems, faced rev­enue losses of up to £70,000 over the sum­mer months due to fundrais­ing events be­ing can­celled.

The RFU’s £7mil­lion fi­nan­cial res­cue pack­age and the im­pact of Sport Eng­land grants and the Govern­ment’s busi­ness rate re­lief and loans helped keep some clubs afloat but there are ma­jor fears that, with­out com­pe­ti­tions and crowds, many will now go un­der.

The com­mit­tee agreed that any de­ci­sion to sus­pend pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion would be re­ferred to the RFU coun­cil once the na­ture of any of the com­pe­ti­tions was es­tab­lished.

Dis­cus­sions about the Cham­pi­onship con­tinue. There are fears that the en­tire league may have to be “moth­balled” be­cause clubs can­not af­ford to play with­out crowds.

It is un­der­stood the de­ci­sion to de­lay the grass-roots sea­son was taken so as to pro­vide clubs with some cer­tainty.

They can con­tinue to or­gan­ise non-con­tact fix­tures us­ing the “Ready4Rugb­y” or other touch rugby for­mats.

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