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Rugby Football League to get £16m Government cash injection

Sports Minister: "In this case we are intervening as an exception. This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of rugby league"

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Castleford director of rugby Jon Wells says rugby league has been handed a 'lifeline'

The Rugby Football League will receive a £16m cash boost from the Government to safeguard the immediate future of the sport.

The emergency loan will help the sport deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The season remains suspended with no return date set as the virus continues to impact around the world.

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: "This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of rugby league.

Oliver Dowden is Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Image: Oliver Dowden says rugby league clubs are the beating heart of their communities

"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.

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"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."

The RFL will administer this funding, in partnership with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. All RFL Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs based in England are eligible to apply.

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/ 13/01/2020 - Rugby Football League RFL Betfred Championship Season Launch 2020 Huddersfield Town Hall, Huddersfield. Ralph Rimmer
Image: The RFL chief executive has welcomed the cash boost from Government

Ralph Rimmer, chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: "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 (unique selling proposition) - 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."

 Super League's Chief Executive Robert Elstone
Image: Robert Elstone has warned of the challenging period that still lies ahead

Super League executive chairman, Robert Elstone, added: "Super League has had to make many difficult decisions over the past few weeks responding to the outbreak of COVID-19.

"Clearly those decisions were exacerbated by the absence of any clarity on what lies ahead. This news will alleviate some of those concerns and provide much-needed certainty about the future.

"Make no mistake, a challenging period still lies ahead and public safety and the protection of our communities remains our priority.

"But, at a tough time, the game has had a good day. We can now look forward, with more confidence, while we continue to play our part in the country's recovery."

Castleford Tigers director of rugby Jon Wells believes the funding will pave the way to Super League matches being played behind closed doors.

"This is not a league that is awash with money, it's not particularly well financially resourced," Wells told Sky Sports News.

"Clubs have had to furlough all members of staff including players, some of whom have taken pay cuts of up to 50 per cent, albeit on a temporary basis.

"All of these measures are to try and help the sport to continue, to form some kind of holding pattern until such a time that we can resume playing again.

"The reason I feel the funding has been made available by the DCMS, and very welcome it is too, is that it will facilitate playing behind closed doors.

"I don't think anybody can really envisage mass gatherings and crowds at sports events for the foreseeable future."

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