Rugby league receives £16 million loan lifeline

Rugby league has received a £16 million emergency loan from the government.

The sport is the first to receive such assistance from the government and will help safeguard the immediate future of the sport.

The money is a loan, not a grant, but comes as a huge boost to the sport as clubs at all levels of the sport have been left feeling the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer will address stakeholders on Friday morning to give further detail on how the loan will be used and distributed. It is expected the money will benefit all levels of the game, from Super League down to community clubs.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden 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.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed the RFL will be in charge of administering the loan. They also say all Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs based in England are eligible to apply.

Ralph Rimmer said: “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 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.”

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.”