Government announces funding to protect grassroots, elite women and championship rugby union
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will distribute a mix of community gaming funding, in the form of loans and grants, for all levels of the men’s, women’s and junior game at the grassroots level, providing a lifeline to communities across the country.
Loans and grants will be made to community clubs, designed to cover essential survival costs due to lack of spectators and capital works.
Rugby union has been particularly affected as a major sport by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.
It has been prohibited by government regulations to resume at the local level since March 2020, under its standard rules as a contact sport. In October 2020, the RFU canceled the competitive adult leagues (level 3 and below for men, level 2 and below for women) for the 2020/21 season.
While the government authorized the return of contact rugby to the local level in December 2020, subject to adaptations, the announcement of the resulting national lockdown in January 2021 to counter the sharp rise in infection rates coronavirus resulted in its suspension.
The sources of income from the sport are also heavily dependent on the Rugby Football Union (RFU) generating 85% of its income from matches and events at Twickenham Stadium, which can then be reinvested in grassroots football. The organization has already laid off 119 people.
The global funding proposed to support the rugby union includes:
- £ 22million in loans to support the survival of community club assets
- £ 17million in grants and £ 3million in loans to cover community clubs’ survival costs
- £ 1.1million in grants for professional women’s rugby, including costs related to the Premier 15 and covid-19 for the Red Roses’ Women’s Six Nations campaign
- Up to £ 5.5million in loan funding to support the start of the men’s championship season
Community clubs have been urged to apply for funding to the RFU who will administer the process and provide additional guidance to clubs next week.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said:
We know that spectator restrictions continue to have consequences for many sports, in particular Rugby Union and its clubs from the elite level to the local level.
That’s why we’re helping our core spectacle sports, with money already going to over 100 organizations, from women’s football to netball, badminton and basketball, and many more to follow over the weeks. to come as we work our way back to normalcy.
We continue to work closely with the RFU to bring back competitive and full community gaming as soon as possible. With the real progress we are making with the immunization program, we are more and more confident.
Rugby Football Union CEO Bill Sweeney said:
We would like to thank DCMS, the government and Sport England for their tremendous support during this very difficult time. Covid has impacted all sports and rugby has faced an incredibly difficult time with many community-owned clubs operating across the country with significant overheads but no income for over a year.
RFU has undertaken a major restructuring to reduce its cost base. Despite this, with 85% of our income coming from hosting international matches at Twickenham, our income has declined by around £ 140million last year and we expect a loss of around £ 30-35million. sterling during this fiscal year. With significant changes in the way we operate and a difficult restructuring we can meet this challenge, however, some of our clubs are not in such a strong position. The Sports Winter Survival Pack means that rugby clubs, which play an important role in their communities at large, will survive and thrive as well.
We are also extremely grateful for the £ 1.1million funding for Elite Women’s Game which will help cover the increased operational costs related to Covid for the Red Roses and the Allianz Premier 15 and will help us to re-establishing some important initiatives in club competition that will help drive the women’s game forward.
Chairman of the Independent Council, Sir Ian Cheshire said:
This is another important confirmation of funding for the Sport Winter Survival Package and will support rugby on many levels as it responds and recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
We have worked closely with the RFU in recent months to understand the scale of the pandemic’s impact on sport, and know this funding will help protect the thousands of clubs that are on the brink due to the restrictions. of Covid-19. .
This is the third installment of funding announced under the government’s £ 300million Winter Sports Survival Program, which aims to help major spectator sports severely affected by coronavirus restrictions survive the ‘winter.
It follows the government’s announcement of a major boost to women’s sport in February, with an initial £ 2.25million for women’s football, £ 4.2million for the netball, a total of £ 4million for badminton and basketball, and that women’s sport would be given priority for 250,000 free. Covid-19 test kits made available to elite sports, worth £ 1.5million. It has also been announced that 19 top National League Step 1-2 clubs will be offered loans worth up to £ 5.4million.
The first announcement in January confirmed that Stages 3-6 of the National League system will receive up to £ 10million to protect the immediate future of around 850 clubs over the winter period.
Requests for support have been submitted by individual sports to an independent decision-making board, supported by Sport England.
The Winter Sport Survival Package is the most generous of any government to its national sport sector in the world. It comes on top of the sector with more than £ 1.5bn of business support made available by the government, including the leave program, lower participation rates and the business interruption loan program that has helped many sports clubs and recreation businesses survive.
Earlier this week, the Chancellor announced additional support of £ 300million which is expected to benefit major summer spectator sports such as cricket, tennis and horse racing, as the lockdown exit continues and sports stadiums initially open to reduced capacities. Further details, including how the money will be distributed, how organizations can apply and deadlines, will be announced by Sport England in the coming weeks.
The mass sports and physical activity sector is also benefiting from £ 220million emergency funding provided by Sport England, and beneficiaries of a £ 100million National Recreation Recovery Fund to support public recreation facilities in England during the pandemic are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Further Sports Winter Survival Package funding confirmations, including additional support for Premiership Rugby, will be made in due course.
Notes to Editors:
A detailed information sheet on how the Sport Winter Survival Package works and the criteria for assessing candidates has been published by Sport England. Read it here.
In this week’s budget, the Chancellor also announced that the government will provide:
- An initial amount of £ 25million to support grassroots growth, which will be enough to build around 700 new pitches across the UK;
- £ 2.8million to continue to undertake feasibility work to assess the viability of a British and Irish bid for the 2030 FIFA Men’s World Cup before Fifa officially opens the process in 2022;
- £ 1.2million to mitigate the financial effects of COVID-19 on the UEFA Women’s Football Euro and host a successful tournament in England in 2022, helping the sport to develop and prosper. This money will be used to extend contracts for delivery teams, host city resource costs and the opening ceremony.