Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer says his sport got exactly what they wanted from the Government’s sport relief package.
Rimmer dismissed comparisons with the £135m being given to rugby union – pointing to the losses incurred by the scrapping of the crowd-pulling Autumn internationals – and insisted the Government satisfied his own body’s bespoke requirements.
“We made a calculation based on lost ticket revenue incurred from the first of October to the first of April,” Rimmer said.
“The Government has now responded twice and delivered what we asked for. I’m not really bothered about rugby union, they will determine what is sustainable for them.
“We got what we wanted. Provided we use it responsibly, this will enable us to stabilise the sport, manage our way through to some sustainable growth and give us a bright future.”
Rimmer says he accepted the Government decision to hand out loans rather than grants.
“This is the money that you and I pay in taxes,” he said. “This is public purse money, it comes with conditions and we do have to handle it responsibly.”
The loans will enable the sport to get to the end of 2020 intact, with the notable exception of Toronto Wolfpack, who pulled out of Super League in July due to financial problems exacerbated by the pandemic.
“If we weren’t delivering this, the clubs would have fallen over because they would have thrown the towel in,” Rimmer added.
“Super League clubs have done an outstanding job and I think the Championship and League 1 clubs are in a relatively good position at this moment…what their concern would be what 2021 looks like in terms of testing and crowds and whether they can make a business model of that.”
All 10 UK-based Super League clubs accessed the initial £16m loan, as well as a number in the lower flights, and RFL finance director Tony Sutton says the governing body intends to produce a detailed breakdown while confirming that both the RFL and Super League have also obtained loans.
The RFL is thought to have lost up to £3m as a result of the cancellation of the Ashes Series, while playing the Challenge Cup final behind closed doors at Wembley is thought to have left it with a shortfall of between £1m and £2m.
While welcoming the financial support, Rimmer has called for a roadmap for the return of spectators.
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 expected start of the 2021 season in late March.
Rimmer said: “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.”
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