Government announces £300m 'Winter Survival Package' for sports
Government announces £300m 'Winter Survival Package' for sports impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; Sports minister Nigel Huddleston will address MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon
Last Updated: 20/11/20 2:54pm
The Government has announced a £300m rescue package of emergency funding to protect the immediate future of spectator sports in England.
The funding, which will largely be composed of loans, will be shared among several sports - from national governing bodies through to clubs - that will be most severely impacted over the winter because of coronavirus.
Both rugby codes and horse racing are among the 11 sports that will receive the funding, but the Premier League and the English Football League have missed out, along with cricket.
Nigel Huddleston, Sports Minister, said: "Over the past few weeks we have worked tirelessly with sport governing bodies and clubs across the country to fully assess what support is needed, as a result of the decision to postpone the return of fans.
"We know the vast majority of sports - many of which operate on tight financial margins - have been making serious cost reductions, such as locking down grounds, taking up the furlough scheme for many staff and halting excess payments.
"Whilst the Government's overall economic package has provided a significant buffer, it is absolutely right that we now intervene to protect entire sports, and the communities they support, as we navigate this pandemic."
"Britain is a sports powerhouse, and this Government will do everything we can to help our precious sports and clubs make it through covid"
Women's football, the lower tiers of the National League, motorsport, tennis, netball, basketball, ice hockey, badminton and greyhound racing are also in line to benefit.
"Sports clubs are the beating hearts of their communities, and this £300 million boost will help them survive this difficult winter period," Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said.
"We promised to stand by sports when we had to postpone fans returning. We are doing just that by delivering another £300 million on top of existing business support schemes.
"Britain is a sports powerhouse, and this Government will do everything we can to help our precious sports and clubs make it through covid."
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said the first tranche of funding will be distributed in the coming weeks.
Breakdown of funding distribution
£300m 'Winter Survival Package' for sports
£241m will go immediately to the eleven sports identified
£59m will be contingency funds [unforeseen events at this stage]
Rugby union will receive the biggest single amount - £135m. Of that, £44m will go to the Rugby Football Union, £59m to Premiership Rugby clubs, £9m to clubs in the Championship and £23m to clubs below the Championship.
Horse racing will receive £40m to support racecourses unable to welcome visitors.
The National League, which has already received funding worth £10m as part of a partnership with The National Lottery to enable it to begin its 2020-21 season, will be given a further £11m to cover the period between January and the end of March.
Steps three to six of the pyramid will receive £14m, while the Women's Super League and Championship have been awarded £3m.
The government has repeatedly said professional men's football is wealthy enough to support itself through the crisis.
The EFL, whose clubs have been particularly badly hit by the loss of matchday revenue, is yet to agree terms of a bail-out with the Premier League.
The Rugby Football League will receive £12m, in addition to the £16m announced in May to safeguard the sport's future.
Owners and operators of major motorsports circuits will receive a combined £6m, the Lawn Tennis Association will get £5m and England Netball will receive £2m.
Basketball, ice hockey, badminton and greyhound racing have been given £11m combined.
In September, more than 100 leaders from the physical activity sector wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for urgent funding, warning of a "lost generation of sport and activity" due to the pandemic.
The arts industry was given a £1.57bn support package by the government in July.
Turnstiles have been closed since March after plans for a partial return of spectators from October 1 were scrapped amid a rise in coronavirus cases, in another blow to sports bodies.
The government is exploring the potential of allowing fans to return to football matches in England before Christmas, where rates of infection are low.
Governing bodies welcome cash injection
The Football Association are among the governing bodies who have welcomed the arrival of new emergency funding, saying in a statement: "A number of clubs from across the football pyramid have been greatly affected by the pandemic and this financial package will provide vital assistance for them during this challenging period."
"The RFL and our clubs followed a rigorous process in the distribution of those loans, which have now been allocated to all 10 of the UK-based Super League clubs as well as a number in Championship and League 1, and have been invaluable in allowing them to meet the continued challenges of 2020," said Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer.
Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said: "The support for racing recognises the sport's position as the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and the financial peril faced by the tens of thousands who depend upon racing for their livelihoods.
"We are grateful to DCMS and its ministers and officials who have come together with their colleagues at the Treasury to secure this assistance for horse racing. We also thank the many MPs who have supported the need to help the racing businesses in their constituencies. Once again, this demonstrates that when racing speaks to government with one voice, we are so much more effective."
Safety remains the key to fans' return
Nigel Huddleston confirmed the Government remains committed to spectators returning to live sport but again stressed that safety remains a priority ahead of any decision to reopen stadia.
A return date of October 2 was scrapped as the coronavirus infection rate rose and England was placed under a second wave of lockdown measures.
Those rules come to an end next month, at which point it has been hoped that supporters could return to live sporting events.
"All of government wants fans back at games at elite level and at grassroots level as soon as we can but it has to be as soon as it's safe," Huddleston said.
"I know that sounds trite and like a broken record but we're a responsible government and we can only do these things when it's safe to do so.
"We don't know exactly when that will be but we all hope it will be very soon."
When asked if that could be next month, Huddleston said: "Potentially, it could be. But we have to take these decisions responsibly. Grass roots is an absolute priority for us and getting fans back in the stadiums is a long-term goal.
"Every decision will be discussed based on the statistics and where we are. Nobody has a crystal ball, we have to wait to see where we are with the infection rates and then take a decision from there.
"All parties are united in their desire to get fans back into stadiums but everyone accepts it has to be done safely."
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