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DCMS select committee told: major sports facing £700m loss from pandemic

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Leaders of major English sports have told MPs that they are set to lose more than £700m between them over the next 12 months.

Appearing in front of the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee, chiefs from the English football League (EFL), the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the England and Wales cricket Board (ECB) said the COVID-19 shutdown is having a devastating effect on the finances of elite sport.

Rick Parry, chair of EFL, said clubs in the three divisions of the league were heading towards "a financial hole of £200m by the end of September".

Saying that the EFL would need a "proper reset post-Covid", with clubs currently "stacking up creditors", Parry also said it would be "difficult to answer" how many might go out of business.

Tom Harrison, chief executive of ECB, went even further, saying that the future of cricket "is in danger" and that the sport would require a significant and collaborative effort to protect it.

"In a worst-case scenario for which it is prudent to model, the cost of losing the entire cricket season is more than £380m of lost income," he said.

Meanwhile, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said it would take up to six years "to get rugby back fully on its feet”.

Sweeney estimated that the RFU has already lost around £15m, which would become £122m if there are no matches at Twickenham – the national stadium which it owns – during 2020.

The DCMS Select Committee also heard from Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of grassroots body Sport England and from Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of high-performance body UK Sport.

Hollingsworth said the £20m Community Emergency Fund – part of a larger £195m funding package to help grassroots organisations through the pandemic – was already oversubscribed.

“We would expect 4,000 applications in a year," he said. "Over the last five weeks, we have had 7,500 applications.

“That tells the story of how clubs are in need of that support.”

Meanwhile, UK Sport's Dame Katherine said the organisation was looking for an “early and exceptional rollover” of money from the government, in order to protect national governing bodies of sport.

She said the rollover would “reassure all Olympic and Paralympic sports that funding is in place”.

The current funding cycle ends in March 2021, but Grainger is looking for a rollover until March 2022 due to the Tokyo Olympic Games being moved from June 2020 to June 2021.

• The DCMS Select Committee session is available to watch in its entirety on the Parliament Live service. To access the footage, click here.

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Leaders of major English sports have told MPs that they are set to lose more than £700m between them over the next 12 months.
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