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