RFU issues £7m relief package, wants rugby to play 'big role' in energising communities post-outbreak
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RFU issues £7m relief package, wants rugby to play 'big role' in energising communities post-outbreak

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I'm confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief Bill Sweeney has said the sport wants to play a major part in getting the public back to normality, once the restrictions on everyday life will be lifted following the Coronavirus outbreak.

"I'm confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period," said Sweeney, who was appointed chief executive of the RFU in February 2019.

"In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union."

Sweeney was speaking to the media after the RFU launched a support package worth £7m, providing financial support for community clubs across England.

Funded directly from the RFU coffers, the relief package includes a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between £2,000 and £10,000 to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years.

Clubs with outstanding loans due in March 2020 have also seen their quarterly loan repayments suspended until further notice.

RFU will also activate an early release of funding payments of around £600,000 to constituent bodies, allowing them to provide immediate support grants to the clubs most in need. The activity plans, against which the funding was originally allocated, have been suspended due to the closure of all facilities.

Sweeney added that the relief package has been made despite the national governing body experiencing a tough financial period – made worse by the inability to generate revenues from Twickenham, the national stadium.

"We had budgeted for a loss-making year within a four-year cycle, due to the costs of the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games," Sweeney said.

"The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country.

"Our biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game.

"In that sense, we are like every other club in the Union – when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

"Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50m and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this.

"The RFU executive team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25 per cent. In addition, combined board fees will be reduced by 75 per cent."

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