The Sports Minister has announced the latest tranche of funding from the Government’s Sport Winter Survival Package, which will see more than £40 million provided to support grassroots rugby union clubs and up to £5.5 million to support the launch of the men’s Championship competition from this weekend.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will distribute a mixture of funding to the community game, in the form of loans and grants, for all levels of the men’s, women’s and youth game at grassroots level, providing a lifeline to communities across the country.
Loans and grants will be provided to community clubs, designed to cover essential survival costs due to the lack of spectators and capital works.
Rugby Union has been uniquely affected as a major sport by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.
It has been precluded by Government regulations to resume at grassroots level since March 2020, under its standard rules as a contact sport. In October 2020, the RFU cancelled Adult Competitive Leagues (Level 3 and below for men, Level 2 and below for women) for the 2020/21 season.
Whilst the Government granted approval for 15-a-side contact rugby union to return at grassroots level in December 2020, subject to adaptations, the consequent national lockdown announcement in January 2021 to counter the steep rise in coronavirus infection rates prompted this to be suspended.
The sport’s revenue streams 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 back into the grassroots game. The organisation has already made 119 people redundant.
The overall funding package offered to support rugby union includes:
- £22 million of loan funding to support the survival of community club assets
- £17 million of grant and £3 million of loan funding to support survival costs for community clubs
- £1.1 million of grant funding for professional women’s rugby including the Premier 15s and covid-19 related costs for the Red Roses’ Women’s Six Nations campaign
- Up to £5.5 million of loan funding to support the launch of the men’s Championship season
Community clubs were invited to make applications for funding to the RFU who will administer the process and will issue further guidance to clubs next week.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said:
Bill Sweeney, Chief Executive of The Rugby Football Union said:
Chair of the independent Board, Sir Ian Cheshire said:
This is the third tranche of funding to be announced from the Government’s £300 million Sport Winter Survival Package that is focused on helping those major spectator sports severely impacted by coronavirus restrictions survive the winter.
It follows the Government announcing a major boost for women’s sport in February, with an initial £2.25 million for women’s football, £4.2 million to netball, a combined £4 million for badminton and basketball, and that women’s sport would be prioritised for 250,000 free Covid-19 testing kits being made available to elite sports, worth £1.5 million. It was also announced that an initial 19 National League Step 1-2 clubs would be offered loans worth up to £5.4 million.
The first announcement in January confirmed that Steps 3-6 of the National League system will receive up to £10 million to protect the immediate future of approximately 850 clubs over the winter period.
Submissions for support have been made from individual sports to an independent decision-making Board, supported by Sport England.
The Sport Winter Survival Package is the most generous of any Government for its domestic sport sector in the world. It comes on top of the sector benefiting from more than £1.5 billion worth of business support that has been made available by the Government, including the furlough scheme, business rates relief and business interruption loan scheme that has helped many sports clubs and leisure businesses to survive.
Earlier this week the Chancellor announced a further £300 million of support that is expected to benefit major summer spectator sports such as cricket, tennis and horse racing, as the path out of lockdown continues and sports stadia initially open at reduced capacities. Further details, including how cash will be distributed, how organisations can apply and timeframes, will be announced by Sport England in the coming weeks.
Grassroots sports and the physical activity sector are also benefiting from £220 million in emergency funding delivered by Sport England, and the recipients of a £100 million National Leisure Recovery Fund to support publicly owned leisure facilities in England during the pandemic are due to be announced in the coming weeks.
Further confirmations of funding from the Sports Winter Survival Package, including additional support for Premiership Rugby, will be made in due course.