England rugby faces financial precipice

The England Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby will be forced to look for government bailouts after new restrictions on fans attending matches.

The RFU has forecast losses of £106 million (R2.5bn) after government announced measures to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections in England. These measures have put on hold plans for a controlled return of fans into stadiums by 1 October. Twickenham will therefore be unable to host fans for up to six months.

RFU CEO Bill Sweeney confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that with no fans in the stadiums, there would be a £122m reduction in revenue for the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup as well as a £138m revenue loss for next year’s Six Nations.

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‘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,’ Sweeney said. ‘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 Internationals, the Premiership in October or the Championship and community game will, however, have severe consequences for the sport in England across all levels.

‘With no fans this autumn, we will see a £122m reduction in revenue resulting in a loss of £46m and with no fans for the Six Nations, we will see a £136m reduction in revenue with a loss of £60m thereby preventing investment in areas such as the women’s elite game and community rugby.

‘Premiership and Championship clubs will face financial hardship. Our community rugby clubs, many of which run grounds at the heart of their communities, are under threat. Without crowds and league games, community rugby will lose an estimated £86m in revenue this season.

‘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. 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 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, as well as players and volunteers, disappearing forever.

‘Sport is vital for people’s physical and mental health, both of which have never been as critical as they are now. We appreciate the very difficult challenge that the government faces and the government acknowledges the importance of sport to communities and society as a whole and the need to safeguard our future.’

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