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Rugby Union chiefs hail £135m boost but Government under fire for bailout of 'posh' sports


Rugby Union chiefs hail £135m boost and horse racing receives £40m lifeline but Government under fire for bailout of ‘posh’ sports after boxing and swimming miss out

  • Rugby union to receive a £135m bailout including £59m to Premiership clubs
  • The Government’s ‘winter survival package’ includes £40m for horse racing 
  • Deal focuses on sports most affected by the decision to delay the return of fans

Rugby Union chiefs have hailed the cash ‘lifeline’ which will keep clubs afloat for the rest of the season after receiving almost half of the Government’s £300million sports rescue package.

However, No 10 was forced to defend itself for seeming to prioritise ‘posh’ sports with horse racing emerging as the second biggest beneficiary of the bailout, and boxing and swimming expressing disappointment at being overlooked.

The Government’s ‘winter survival package’ is mostly composed of loans and focuses on the spectator sports most affected by the decision to delay the return of fans, which was originally scheduled for October 1.

Rugby union will receive a cash injection of £135m including £59m to Premiership clubs

Rugby union will receive a cash injection of £135m including £59m to Premiership clubs

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston says the door remains open for other sports to receive funding, with £59m yet to be allocated, and has hinted there could be another bailout in the spring.

In the package announced on Thursday, rugby union will receive a cash injection of £135m – £44m to the RFU, £59m to Premiership clubs, £9m to Championship clubs and £23m to clubs at lower levels.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: ‘It’s a real lifeline. The cancellation of matchday revenue created a huge crisis in our clubs as they are heavily reliant on it to be solvent.

‘I’m really pleased Government is providing the support so we can keep paying wages in the short term. The money will go straight to the clubs and those that need it so they continue to trade.

The Government’s ‘winter survival package’ includes a £40m package for horse racing

The Government’s ‘winter survival package’ includes a £40m package for horse racing

‘We hope that this will get to them by Christmas. That gives us comfort in terms of getting the clubs through this season, which is not without its challenges.’

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney added: ‘We are very reassured that Government recognises the difficult circumstances and unique challenges being faced by the whole of the rugby union family and we are grateful for this much-needed support.’

However, Steve Lansdown, who owns Premiership side Bristol Bears, described the overall £300m bailout as ‘pittance’ compared to the £1.57bn awarded to the arts in the summer.

The rest of the Government’s offer sees horse racing receive £40m, rugby league £12m, motorsport £6m, tennis £5m, netball £4m, basketball £4m, ice hockey £4m, badminton £2m and greyhound racing £1m.

Non-league men’s football has been awarded £25m and women’s football £3m – but the Government expects the Premier League to bailout the EFL.

Rugby league received a £12m bailout but sports like boxing and swimming were overlooked

Rugby league received a £12m bailout but sports like boxing and swimming were overlooked

Asked about perceived preferential treatment to middle-class sports, Huddleston insisted: ‘This is not a north-south divide or Tory vs Labour. There’s a whole variety of sports being supported by this.

‘The money is being spread fairly well across the country. It is based on an assessment of need.’

Cricket never expected to receive any cash because of the size of the ECB’s broadcast deal and the fact it has not been impacted by the ban on fans over the winter.

But Robert Smith, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, told Sportsmail: ‘I’m going to write to Nigel Huddleston for clarity in the morning. I’m surprised that we have been left off that initial list.

‘There is sometimes a perception that boxing has a lot of money because of the purses at the very top end but in the region of 80 to 85 per cent of boxing shows are small hall shows and they have obviously been affected hugely by the circumstances.’

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson added: ‘There is no doubt that we are fighting for survival, both as an organisation and a sector, and therefore it would have been a lifeline to have been part of the announcement.

‘I would like to see further Government investment focused on sports that have missed out on this package but have also been severely impacted by coronavirus restrictions.’ 

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