RFL welcomes Government financial support but renews calls for return of fans

The Rugby Football League has welcomed further Government financial support to help it plot a way through the coronavirus pandemic but called for a roadmap for the return of spectators.

The RFL is to receive £12million of the £300m the Government has set aside as part of its ‘Sport Winter Survival Package’ to help sports survive in the absence of crowds.

That comes on top of the £16m loan handed out in May, which the governing body says has been allocated to all 10 UK-based Super League clubs as well as a number in the Championship and League 1.

Super League resumed in August and will conclude on Friday week with the Grand Final, but all matches have been played behind closed doors and the RFL is preparing for the continued absence of spectators until beyond the start of the 2021 season in late March.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We are grateful to Government for recognising the importance of sport in general – and rugby league in particular – to society and the economy, and for understanding the impact of the continuing absence of spectators.

“The Government showed in granting rugby league an initial £16m loan in the spring that they valued the significant social impact of the sport in often disadvantaged communities.

“The extended loan facility is extremely welcome as we plan for a strong 2021 and the return of all our competitions – culminating in hosting three World Cups (men, women and wheelchair) next October and November.

“Rugby league would rather earn every pound than borrow one. Therefore, we now need a clear roadmap on the phased return of spectators, with the resumption of the sports pilot programme and the plans to safely introduce at first limited then larger crowds.”

The RFL estimated the cancellation of the eagerly-anticipated Ashes Series cost it around £3m in lost revenue, while playing the Coral Challenge Cup final behind closed doors at Wembley is thought to have left it with a shortfall of between £1m and £2m.

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