Rugby League chief Ralph Rimmer delighted as clubs get £16m helping hand to see them through Covid-19 crisis

The news all of rugby league had been hoping for has been delivered: the Government will step in with a much-needed multi-million pound cash injection to help “save” the sport.
RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer. Picture Bruce RollinsonRFL CEO Ralph Rimmer. Picture Bruce Rollinson
RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer. Picture Bruce Rollinson

It was today confirmed that the Rugby Football League will receive a £16 million emergency loan to aid the ongoing battle its clubs face dealing with the extreme financial impact of coronavirus.

Like all major organisations and businesses across the UK, the RFL had recently submitted its bid for such critical aid and –with cash-strapped clubs on their knees due to the global pandemic – were in desperate need of a positive answer.

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There had been promising noises emanating from Whitehall in recent days but, until this support was officially rubber-stamped, no one in rugby league dare get presumptuous.

Sheffield Eagles and Doncaster RLFC will both be able to apply for funding.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden, however, has now revealed details of the funding the sport – shutdown since mid-March and with no indications on when it will resume – will receive and explained why its bid was successful.

“This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of Rugby League,” he said.

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“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.

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“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.”

As part of its election manifesto in December, the Government pledged to help deliver a successful 2021 World Cup.

MPs across Yorkshire and the north of England, meanwhile, have been supporting rugby league’s case for emergency funding and citing the invaluable work clubs perform in their communities.

Many have well-established charitable foundations set up while their importance has been highlighted during the ongoing health crisis with players and representatives from clubs such as Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers all getting out into their communities to aid those in need.

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Although all clubs have utilised the Government’s furlough scheme to help save money while they have no income, numerous owners have expressed their fear that their clubs still may not survive if additional government aid was not forthcoming.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer was, then, obviously delighted with this latest development.

“The RFL is grateful to the Government for understanding and acting on the case for the whole sport,” he said.

“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.

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“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, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, added: “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.

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“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.”

The RFL will administer the funding, in partnership with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

All Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs based in England are eligible to apply and the governing body will soon detail to clubs how and when they can do so.

Undoubtedly, they will be inundated but rarely can they ever have been so grateful to be in such a position.