'This could cause irreparable damage to our clubs' - Premiership Rugby seeking government rescue package

Premiership Rugby CEO Darren Childs has warned that 'irreparable damage' could be done if clubs are not allowed to welcome supporters back to stadiums before March.

By Tom Vickers
Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 12:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 1:00 pm
Premiership Rugby is seeking a rescue package
Premiership Rugby is seeking a rescue package

At a meeting on Tuesday, sports governing bodies - including those from rugby, football and cricket - were told to prepare for no spectators throughout the winter.

It comes with the government trying to stop the rise in Covid-19 cases across the country.

But for rugby clubs, it is a shocking situation, with many Premiership sides estimated to be losing more than £1million for every month that fans can't be allowed in.

And on Tuesday, Childs said: “We can confirm we did hold a very positive meeting with the secretary of state, Oliver Dowden, today and there was a clear understanding of the effects that today's news will have across the sports sector, including rugby.

“However, 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 from suspending the season and playing matches behind closed doors since March.

“We believe the lack of supporters in our grounds could cause irreparable damage to our clubs and the communities they serve so must find a way forward to avoid this.

“As we seek solutions we look forward to working with government on a rescue package for professional club rugby in England and we will continue to seek innovative ways to overcome these challenges to ensure premiership rugby and its clubs have a future.”

There had been plans for fans to return to sport from October 1, but those have now been shelved.

Twickenham was ready to welcome crowds of around 25,000 this autumn, but that will not be happening now.

And Rugby Football Association CEO Bill Sweeney said: “The RFU would like to thank the Secretary of State and Sports Minister for convening a sports industry discussion immediately after the Prime Minister’s statement with the objective of finding solutions to support sport.

“We understand the difficult balance government faces in controlling the spread of the virus while enabling parts of society and the economy to remain open. 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.

“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 Guinness Six Nations we will see a £138m 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 significant 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 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 Government faces and Government acknowledges the importance of sport to communities and society as a whole and the need to safeguard our future.”