Government backing for RL in COVID-19 crisis

Posted: Friday 1st May 2020 - 6:00 AM

The Government has announced an emergency loan of £16 million to be administered by the RFL, in partnership with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

In their announcement, DCMS highlighted Rugby League’s importance to the communities in which it is established, and the boost that will be provided to the sport and the North by staging three World Cups – Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair - in the autumn of 2021. The Government’s manifesto included a commitment to delivering a successful tournament, with significant financial support already provided.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of Rugby League. We recognise that many RFL clubs operate on very tight financial margins. Without their ability to stage matches with spectators and despite the Government’s extensive economic package, the professional game has come very close to collapsing. 

“From my first sports visit as Secretary of State to Leigh Centurions, I could see how important these clubs are to the communities they serve.  They are the beating heart of their towns and cities, and their impact goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Sports across the board are facing unprecedented pressures, and we are supporting them through wider Government measures.  In this case we are intervening as an exception, not to save an individual business or organisation, but to protect an entire sport, the community it supports,  the World Cup held here next year and its legacy for generations to come.”

Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Rugby League is a sport that makes a significant social impact in the communities it serves, which is even more important now as we respond to the economic pressures resulting from Covid-19. The timing of the Rugby League World Cup next year will also be a fantastic opportunity to build on the sport’s strong track record within these communities, and is an opportunity that this Government’s support will ensure is delivered.”

Ralph Rimmer, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League spoke about the Government's backing stating:  “The RFL is grateful to the Government for understanding and acting on the case for the whole sport. In these very tough times for the country and huge demands on Government, this is confirmation of why Rugby League is important – our USP – the sport’s significant social impact in Northern communities in particular. Rugby League is not a wealthy sport but is rich in the things that matter most – outstanding sporting and life chances in often disadvantaged communities. The effects of lockdown at the start of our season genuinely threatened the survival of our clubs at all levels and their ability to continue delivering those positive social and economic impacts.

“This support has been achieved as a result of the whole sport working together; a credit to all the clubs, and to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rugby League and many other supporters of our sport. It enables the sport to survive, to reshape and to be ready to restart in this our 125th year. And to look to a home World Cup next year and a legacy for our communities. Watching and playing sport together, including Rugby League, has a role to play in the nation’s recovery. We are part of that national sporting landscape. In the meantime, we continue to work at the heart of our communities, helping wherever we can.”

Super League Executive Chairman Robert Elstone commented on the news: "Arriving at the most challenging time in our 125-year history, this is critical and invaluable support.

"For many people, particularly in the north of England, rugby league is more than a sport: our Clubs are key employers and play an essential role in local economies; they are also vital social hubs where families bond and communities stand proudly together. This pledge by the Government is indicative of the unique role Super League Clubs play in those communities. Throughout this pandemic, Super League and the governing body, The RFL, have been united in consistently putting forward that message, and we are delighted it has been heard loud and clear at such an important time. The Game is grateful that the Government has backed up promises it made to the north of the England at the General Election.

"Super League has had to make many difficult decisions over the past few weeks responding to the outbreak of COVID-19. Clearly those decisions were exacerbated by the absence of any clarity on what lies ahead. This news will alleviate some of those concerns and provide much-needed certainty about the future. Super League would like to acknowledge the tireless work of the RFL in securing such vital support. Make no mistake, a challenging period still lies ahead and public safety and the protection of our communities remains our priority. But, at a tough time, the Game has had a good day – we can now look forward, with more confidence, while we continue to play our part in the country's recovery."

All Betfred Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs based in England are eligible to apply for funding. Further details on when the fund will open and how clubs can apply will be announced by the RFL in due course.

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