England's bleak financial picture
NEWS: Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney warned of the “catastrophic” impact coronavirus could have on the sport if the professional game cannot return in the next year.
Sweeney revealed England’s RFU, which has already lost £15 million ($19 million) due to the crisis, will lose a total of £107 million if the internationals are cancelled.
Sweeney, who was giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Tuesday, said rugby union in England would need a Government bailout if next year’s Six Nations could not be played. “That would be catastrophic, 85 percent of our income comes from hosting men’s international games at Twickenham,” he said.
“Twickenham is a major asset for us. When you own a stadium it is a major cost and at the same time brings in large revenue. If this was to be prolonged and the Six Nations games were impacted, then it would be a catastrophic impact on rugby union in England. We would be looking at some very severe situations.
“We would like to thank the Government for what was put in place very quickly. If we are one of the last cabs off the rank because of the contact and characteristics, we would need extra help. We have 60 percent of our staff furloughed. If Six Nations matches are off in 2021 then there would be a limit in what we could do and we would have to go to the Government for extra support.”
*Article continues below…
This year’s Six Nations is pencilled in to be completed in October and November, with England due to play November internationals afterwards. However, that could still be in doubt and Sweeney says the governing body will lose £107million if they are cancelled.
He said: “If the Test internationals go ahead in November, which are key for us, we will still lose £32m in revenue. If they go ahead but behind closed doors that is a negative impact of £85m and if they are cancelled entirely that will be £107m on top of the £15m we have already lost. So it is a very significant loss of revenue and we are doing what we can to mitigate it.”
Sweeney also said that sport could take up to six years to recover from the financial impact of the crisis. “Our financial model is strong. Owning Twickenham is good for us and we are not spending money that we don’t have to spend,” he said. “We have implemented cost reductions that allowed us to claw back £13m but that has gone now.
“It is not going to be a short-term issue, we are looking at a four-, five-, six-year recovery plan. Our financial year ending next month, we are not in a bad situation. If we have no rugby played, it would a £107m loss. We are targeting between £20m-£25m in savings.”
In other news: