Government pledges £16million to save rugby league

The government has announced a £16million cash injection to the RFL to help rescue the future of the game.

The emergency loan will help the sport deal with the financial strain of the coronavirus outbreak while the season remains suspended.

It comes ahead of England hosting the Rugby League World Cup next year – and the government’s manifesto included a commitment to delivering a successful tournament, with “significant” financial support already provided.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 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.”

RFL chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, added: “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.”

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