Covid-19, Premiership Rugby and Worcester Warriors
                   
 

Worcester Warriors director of rugby says"
"cash help is definitely required”
(30 Sept 2020)

We are not only a Rugby Club.
Warriors are an intregal part of the West Midlands Community
It could be 12 months with "No" gate receipts, food and bar sales, events or hospitality

Warriors co-owners Jason Whittingham and Colin Goldring “held constructive talks” with Mid-Worcestershire MP and under-secretary of state for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nigel Huddleston last week.


That came after a stark message from Sixways over the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, particularly those preventing fans from attending professional sports matches for up to six months, and not just at Worcester.


Solomons is known for taking care with public comments, not least when it comes to off-field matters, but he refused to sugar coat the obvious this week in stating external help is “definitely required”.


“It was very positive to have Nigel Huddleston visit us, I think he is appreciative of the role rugby plays in terms of the community in Worcester, the county and West Midlands,” said Solomons.


“These are circumstances totally beyond the control of any of the clubs. It was one thing to say that maybe by November, the start of the 2020-21 season, we would be playing (in front of crowds) but now it appears that will not be until March.


“That is a year without any gate money at all so I think the government will take cognisance of that.


“Everyone is in pretty much the same boat, the good thing is Colin and Jason are pretty hands-on and committed to the Warriors.


“There is the question of the development of the land here which will provide non-matchday revenue for the club so that is very positive but the truth is with no crowds for 12 months, some sort of assistance is definitely required.”

Speaking prior to that meeting, Whittingham was also appreciative of the urgency shown by Nigel Huddleston and Worcester MP Robin Walker.


“Nigel was very proactive about coming to meet with the club,” said Whittingham.
“We have an opportunity here to support the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games which Nigel is very keen for us to take.


“Likewise, I was very keen to chat to Nigel regarding the crisis facing this sport, not just this club but rugby as a whole, and to his credit he was incredibly flexible and arranged to visit at the earliest possible opportunity.


“He is very engaged with the process and the government is very engaged with our sport.
“Even though we are not in his constituency, a lot of Robin’s constituents are supporters and employees of the club so he has been very keen to help too.


“If nothing else, the statement served a purpose in terms of getting people to proactively engage with us.”


Asked what he hoped would come from the talks, Whittingham replied: “Some form of financial support for the industry.

“There is an amount of financial support that every owner of every club signs up to, Covid has made that exceptional so some kind of reasonable and sensible approach from the government to support an industry that is responsible for several thousand employees.


“It is not just them, every one of these clubs is an asset within its community. It is not just about kicking around an oval ball every Saturday or Sunday, and now kicking around a round ball, we do a lot of good work out in the community through our foundation.


“Last year, when Oscar (Saxelby-Lee) needed help getting treatment for a rare form of leukaemia, we put on a charity match so there is more to these clubs than simply being a sports business that plies its trade at the weekend, they are there when their communities need them.


“It is not wrong that when a club, sport or business needs support back from the community that it reaches out, which is exactly what’s happening now.”

 

Damien Hopley
(29th Sept 2020)


President Rugby Players Association
Players fear losing jobs as elite clubs are pushed to brink of going under.

Hopley warns
some sides may not survive until January
Union chief says ban on fans sounds ‘the death knell’ for Professional Rugby Union

Players from across the game fear widespread job losses following dire financial forecasts that up to three clubs could go out of business by January, Damian Hopley, the chief executive of the Rugby Players’ Association, has warned. Warning: Damian Hopley said rugby clubs need to get fans back before Christmas


He also said that professional rugby in England was facing its “death knell” unless spectators are allowed to return to stadiums before Christmas. Hopley told The Daily Telegraph: “There are a lot of very nervous players, the clubs have already suffered significant financial losses this season.


“We have spoken to a number of very concerned players who recognise the absolutely devastating impact this will have on their employers and the broader game.


“The message and feedback and significant concerns that are being raised from players at all clubs is: ‘Will I have a club, will I have a job and what are the RPA or Premiership Rugby going to do about it?’


“The players’ association is about providing players with as much certainty as possible, but clearly no one is immune to what the latest government announcement is on no crowds. It will have a devastating impact. This is about players having jobs and some of the harder discussions that we have had with players are not about taking pay cuts, but the fact that they might not have a job because their club might go under.

The impact of last Tuesday’s announcement is that clubs might not be here by January. That would have a seismic impact on communities, fans, the outreach programmes across the entire sport and many are quite rightly saying this could be the death knell of the game.”


Gloucester chief executive Lance Bradley told The Telegraph that the 147-year-old club were facing losses of £6.2 million and would go out of business within six months without a government bail-out.


The Rugby Football Union says it will lose £138 million in revenue if no supporters can attend England matches at Twickenham during the autumn series and Six Nations Championship, while the community game will lose a further £86 million. Players have already accepted 25 per cent pay cuts following the impact of the first lockdown in March that led to the suspension of the Premiership and Hopley admits that more cuts are likely to be on the table without government support and an about-turn on the restriction on fans.

Negotiations between the RPA and Premiership clubs broke down during the first lockdown, reaching a stand-off over how the cuts were implemented, but Hopley said following robust and constructive talks, alignment was now key for the sport’s survival.


“The stark reality has been exposed by Covid about salary levels and affordability and as painful as it has been for everyone, there is also an understanding across all playing groups that the cuts have been accepted,” Hopley added.


“I have got no doubt if this current situation continues we may well have to revisit the initial cuts.


“That is the reality of the economics of the game now.


“The single biggest cost base [of the clubs] is around salaries.”


Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, and his Premiership Rugby counterpart Darren Childs, met with Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, last week to make the case for government financial support for the sport. Hopley said government support was critical, but insisted the return of crowds was also crucial.


Gloucester had been one of the clubs selected to trial pilot events, with 1,000 supporters allowed to attend their match against Harlequins last month and have spent £35,000 on measures to enable up to 8,000 supporters to attend matches while remaining socially distanced.


“The test events have been successful, which is why last week’s announcement was so frustrating,” Hopley added.


“This has brought into focus the fragility of no crowds and what that means for match-day revenues.


“We want to try to get fans back in this side of Christmas because otherwise I think we are staring down a precipice and no one wants to see that.”

 

Jason Whittingham:
Worcester Raiders takeover has "no conflict" with Morecambe
Its about multi-sport use of our fantastic stadium

CO-OWNER Jason Whittingham has reiterated any attempt to subject Morecambe FC to an MK Dons-style move to Worcester “is never going to happen” on his watch.

A takeover of Worcester Raiders FC by Warriors owners Whittingham and business partner Colin Goldring, which is still going through due process with the Football Association (FA), fuelled fears over what it could mean for League Two Morecambe, also owned by the duo.

 

And as unlikely as FA ratification for any plan to bring together the two clubs would be, Whittingham was quick to scotch any suggestion that it would be put forward in the first place.

“Categorically no, absolutely not. It is never going to happen, certainly not while I own them all,” he said.

“If someone (else) ended up owning all of these, which is doubtful, that would be up to them but there are no intentions to do that whatsoever.

“People need to understand Worcester Raiders has been brought into Sixways Stadium as part of our plan to make the site multi-sport, that was part of the reason for them putting down a synthetic playing surface originally.

“All we have done is brought in another sport to sweat the asset, we now have another 20-odd games that can be played every season, another 20-odd opportunities to generate more income to work towards the sustainability of the rugby club and the site.

“It is not going to become Morecambe FC in Worcester.”

Whittingham and Goldring have always clearly articulated a desire to bring a variety of sports to Sixways to turn around the financial side of a Premiership Rugby outfit that has historically lost millions of pounds per year.

The first step in that process was taken at the back end of July when Whittingham and Goldring, who had previously held takeover talks with Worcester City, announced a deal to become joint-majority owners of Raiders.

FA rules state “no person, company or business institution… may at any time be interested in more than one club” without “prior written consent”, something Whittingham admits has had to go on the backburner for now while Warriors deal with the immediate financial impact of Covid-19.

In cases where individuals or organisations have an interest in more than one club, rules also state that any second club – in this instance Raiders – cannot compete in the FA Cup, a competition they may have been eligible for next season having participated in the FA Vase for the first time earlier this month.

The FA has confirmed “a request for the transfer of football memberships is ongoing and all parties are working towards meeting the requirements” in relation to Raiders, who host Wolverhampton Sporting Community in the club's first competitive match at Sixways tomorrow (Tuesday, 7.45).

Whittingham added: “At the moment Raiders still operates as a member-owned club as it did.

“Quite a lot of paperwork is going back and forth and it is not just about the change of ownership, it is incorporating a previously-unincorporated entity and that process is ongoing. I am liaising with the league, the Worcestershire FA and the FA.

“We don’t foresee any problems but to be honest it is about priorities. There are a few more pieces of paperwork to fill out but the priority at the moment is supporting the rugby industry.

“The takeover of Worcester Raiders will go ahead at some point but it is not a high priority at the moment.

“As it stands there is no conflict otherwise the FA would have stopped the process already. They are two separate clubs.

“We accept Raiders may not be able to play in the FA Cup for the time being but if anything, I see the benefits of being able to link up a non-league club and give it a pathway to an EFL club.

“We are going to join up the dots between Raiders and Morecambe, hopefully to the benefit of both clubs.”

Whittingham also said: “Raiders comes at no cost to what goes on at Worcester Warriors and at the moment it provides positive cashflow.

“To allay concerns our rugby community may have, first and foremost this is a rugby club and the priority will always be rugby. By that I mean men, women, academy, all things rugby and then there is the football.

“Football is here as a secondary sport to generate some income and it will be a net positive (financially) to what goes on in rugby.

“If we can get some fans in to watch football – and if we can continue to do that why can’t we do it for rugby – it has a positive impact on the cash coming into the stadium and that is the point.

 

Rugby Players' Association calls for
financial help from government

The Rugby Players' Association says a government-backed rescue package is of "vital importance" to save the game in England during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Premiership clubs have played behind closed doors since the 2019-20 campaign restarted in August.

Fans may not to be able to return to watch live sporting events in England until the end of March at the earliest.

The RPA has called for "significant financial support" to help the game through "this challenging time".

The majority of Premiership players took a 25% pay cut in March, following the suspension of the season.

And earlier this month the England men's squad accepted a similar cut for the next 12 months.

"Premiership clubs have already suffered significant financial losses from the suspension of the season following the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequently playing matches behind closed doors," an RPA statement said.

"To continue along this path will cause irrevocable damage to clubs across the Premiership that will impact the wider game and communities they serve in England."

Two top-flight games were involved in the pilot scheme for the return of spectators to sporting events, but plans to continue the trial have been shelved following a rise in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union has said that fixtures outside the Premiership, Championship and women's top tier will not be able to take place until at least January 2021.

RPA chief executive Damien Hopley has warned of "catastrophic consequences" for players, clubs, fans and broader rugby communities if crowds are not allowed back into grounds.

"No-one is immune from the impact of what this latest government statement is saying," Hopley told BBC Sport.

"There are a lot of very nervous players out there, worried about what next season looks like and their own livelihoods and futures.

"Looking at the stark warnings coming out from club owners, Premiership Rugby and RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, you would have to bury your head in the ground to not think the biggest cost base in the game is players' salaries.

"We may well be looking at another round of negotiations and consultations around what that looks like.

"We're obviously hoping that isn't the case, having gone through a challenging few months."

 

Bill Sweeny RFU
The start of The English Championship season is delayed
(27th Sept 2020)

There are fears that the entire league may have to be “mothballed” because clubs cannot afford to play without crowds.

Grass-roots rugby in England received a devastating blow with news that the start of league seasons had been delayed until January “at the earliest” because of Covid-19 restrictions.


The decision, taken by the Rugby Football Union’s governance committee, will increase fears about the viability of many community clubs.


The postponement affects all organised leagues with the exception of the Premiership, Championship and Premier 15s.


The RFU chief executive, Bill Sweeney, had forecast on Tuesday that “without crowds and league games community rugby will lose an estimated £86 million” in revenue this season following the Government’s decision to extend the ban on supporters until March.


Analysis has revealed that community clubs, many already with cash problems, faced revenue losses of up to £70,000 over the summer months due to fundraising events being cancelled.

They can continue to organise non-contact fixtures using the “Ready4Rugby” or other touch rugby formats.

The RFU’s £7 million financial rescue package and the impact of Sport England grants and the Government’s business rate relief and loans helped keep some clubs afloat but there are major fears that, without competitions and crowds, many will now go under.


The committee agreed that any decision to suspend promotion and relegation would be referred to the RFU council once the nature of any of the competitions was established.


Discussions about the Championship continue. There are fears that the entire league may have to be “mothballed” because clubs cannot afford to play without crowds.


It is understood the decision to delay the grass-roots season was taken so as to provide clubs with some certainty.

 

Wasps chief warns of drastic cuts in rugby union without government help
(27th Sept 2020)

Top to bottom Rugby Union is looking into the Abyss

Stephen Vaughan has warned Premiership clubs will have to make drastic cuts in a struggle for survival unless the government agrees to a compensation proposal. The proposal is being drawn up by English rugby’s elite who are facing the prospect of no matchday income until March and a combined loss of £70m.


Vaughan, the Wasps group chief executive, said that without financial assistance, following the decision to put the return of fans to sports grounds on hold indefinitely, his club would lose £500,000 a month and that all options would have to be on the table, including further wage cuts, to avoid closure.


“It is a very grim picture,” said Vaughan, who joined Wasps last year from Gloucester. “The clubs are united in our response to this and a paper is being prepared for the government to consider. If a vital income stream is cut off for months on end, the emphasis will be on owners to dig even deeper into their pockets.


“If they decide that they have had enough of throwing their money down the drain and there is no government support, it would make survival very hard. It would mean nothing was off the table in terms of action that would need to be taken.


“Wages have not been discussed, but those clubs who said they would review the cuts made earlier in the year in January, or later in the season, will have to decide whether that is feasible now. Everyone is in the same boat, which is why we are lobbying the government hard.”

Every club except Exeter was making losses before the pandemic struck but the investment from CVC, which at the end of 2018 bought a 27% stake in the Premiership, was making a difference. As well as losing gate income, and the money raised from the sale of food and drink at grounds as well as hospitality, the clubs face a drop in central income.

Premiership Rugby is in the second half of its player agreement with the Rugby Football Union and the level of payment is subject to the turnover of the governing body, which fears it could lose £60m this year if fans are not admitted to watch autumn internationals or next year’s Six Nations.


“We do not yet know what the new level will be, but any further drop in income will have an impact,” said Vaughan. “There is also concern about how sponsors will react to there being no spectators at grounds for potentially six months.” On Tuesday Qantas ended a 30-year association with Rugby Australia, saying it could not justify spending money on sport at a time when it was making drastic cuts.


Vaughan said: “No one wants to make further cuts to the wages of players, coaches and staff at clubs and it would be very difficult to do unless everyone agreed. The bottom line is what would you do to keep a club, some of which have been around for 150 years, going?
“You would have to make difficult decisions. The reality is that this is a global issue that is not going to go away any time soon. We are currently on a great run and are pushing for the play‑offs, but I would swap all of our wins to be able to have fans back at the Ricoh Arena now.”


Wales will play their rearranged Six Nations match against Scotland in October in Llanelli and will welcome Georgia there the following month. The Welsh Rugby Union has not given up hope of some fans being allowed in.

 

Premiership Rugby's Fragile Finances
Financial Times
(20th Sept 2020)

Highlights:

All but one club, are unsustainable without regular cash injections from benefactors.
TV Companies controlling the game
CVC money being used to bolster club finances not being invested in facilities
The Premiership would consider its own "Subscription Service"

Playing to empty stadiums places premiership rugby under threat Head of England’s top league says clubs will go bust unless restrictions are eased Exeter Chiefs, playing in white, were the only one of Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder teams to turn a profit last season

England’s biggest rugby clubs face the “very real” risk of going bust unless the UK government eases restrictions on fans entering stadiums, according to the head of the country’s leading league.

Darren Childs, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, the top tier of English club rugby union, called on ministers to come to a “pragmatic solution” for the reopening of grounds despite concerns to public safety due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Childs told the Financial Times that financial losses from rugby matches that restarted in August without paying spectators, as well as an expensive testing regime for players, is costing clubs tens of millions of pounds. 

These shortfalls are devastating to rugby clubs, which are more reliant on match day income than wealthier sporting competitions such as football’s Premier League, which derives more from broadcasting deals.

Last season, Exeter Chiefs was the only one of Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder teams to turn a profit. “It’s becoming increasingly more alarming, the longer it goes on,” said Mr Childs. “We’re not expecting to open up every seat, but just getting some back in will help to alleviate some of the financial downside . . . we’re trying to keep the show on the road.”

His warning comes as the UK government has scaled back plans to allow the gradual reopening of sports grounds following a rise in coronavirus cases.

Pilot events taking place this month have been restricted to just 1,000 spectators, while plans to allow stadiums to be up to a third full from October have been placed under review.

Sports industry executives have expressed frustration at the government’s restrictions on fans attending open-air stadiums, believing they have done more to adhere to social-distancing requirements than other industries such as airlines and restaurants.

Mr Childs said reopenings should be made on a “location-by-location, game-by-game basis. It would be helpful if we could get the government to come along with us on that journey. . 

Some clubs are in parts of the country where there is very little infection, but we still can’t get fans into those stadiums.”

Premiership Rugby made revenues of £75.5m in the year to June 30 2019, mainly from a television rights deal in the UK with BT Sport, and a sponsorship contract with US insurance company Gallagher. 

These revenues are split between the clubs, with a third of their income from “central distributions” from the League and the majority gained from their own sources, such as match day income and sponsorship deals.

Financial strain is being felt even after Premiership Rugby sold a 27 per cent stake in the league for £200m in 2018 to CVC Capital Partners, the European private equity group.

Some rugby clubs are spending the roughly £15m each received from the CVC deal during the pandemic to help stay afloat rather than investing in infrastructure and marketing spending.

Mr Childs said there were no plans from CVC to provide additional funding, leading to a greater focus on cutting costs. 

Many clubs have cut player pay by up to 25 per cent.

Premiership Rugby has also reduced its salary cap for next season — the limit on how much any team can spend on wages — to £5m, from £6.4m.

These measures have proved controversial.

In June, Mark Lambert, chairman of the Rugby Players Association, the union, said they showed “an absolute disregard” for players who initially considered strike action.

“We had a cost base that, had we not dealt with, would have brought risk of losing clubs,” said Mr Childs, adding the lower salary cap could remain in future.

“All salaries are linked to financial performance of any business. Sport is absolutely no different.”

Further pressure on revenues is likely. Sports broadcasters have demanded rebates to compensate for the loss of live action during this year’s lockdown, with the Premier League returning £330m to its TV partners such as Sky.

Premiership Rugby is undergoing similar talks with BT Sport, but no agreement has been reached.

There are also concerns pay-TV providers will seek to recoup coronavirus-related losses by paying less for sports deals in future.

Premiership Rugby’s deal with BT Sport expires next year, with Mr Childs saying it was considering launching a “competitive tender process” for its broadcast rights, hoping to gain interest from digital groups.

Sports industry executives have expressed frustration at restrictions on fans attending open-air stadiums.

This includes Amazon which has acquired the rights to most matches for the Autumn Nations Cup, a eight-team national rugby tournament taking place in November. 

Mr Childs said the League would consider creating its own subscription service to screen matches to fans over the internet.

“There are people that just live and breathe this sport,” he said. “I think there’s definitely an opportunity for us to look more at our media output as a way of engaging with fans on a more regular basis than we currently do.”

 

Statement from Co-Owners Jason and Colin
(23rd Sept 2020)

Firstly, we hope that this finds you all safe and well during this, unprecedented, period.

Summary: The club has worked hard to put the required stringent safety measure in place to have supporters at games, however the new instructions including "no supporters" will put an enormous financial strain on the planned budgets.

Without government financial support it is going to be very hard to sustain the business

We live in extraordinary and challenging times with COVID-19 remaining as a threat to our health and continuing to shape the way that we live our lives. The overwhelming support that the club has continued to receive during this period is testament to the loyalty and commitment that you all have for the Warriors Family. 

We have managed to navigate our way through some very difficult times and we want to thank all of our staff and players for the loyalty and support they too have shown us through this incredibly challenging period. Our Warriors family have stayed together and, unlike many other clubs and businesses, we have retained all of our players and all of our staff. 

You will no doubt have seen the announcement by the Prime Minister that new restrictions have been put in place to prevent the further spread of the pandemic. Those restrictions include the abandonment of the plan to allow crowds to return to outdoor sporting events from October 1 with the suggestion that no crowds will be permitted for up to six months. 

Having worked so hard to put in place stringent measures to keep safe all those who work or visit Sixways, this is a huge disappointment and puts additional pressure on our fight for survival and our future plans. Without revenue generated on matchdays from crowds, sponsors and their associated spend, Warriors and all professional sports clubs cannot hope to be sustainable without significant support. 
Playing matches behind closed doors for another six months is clearly not sustainable for this club nor for the Premiership as a whole. The additional loss of our events business puts further pressure on our chances for financial survival. We are not alone in this fight for survival. Along with the support of our community this period has brought together the clubs in this country in a way that has not been seen for many years. We are working closely with those clubs, our partners, in this common cause that challenges the entire sport. 

The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby have already requested significant financial support from the Government to ensure that rugby in England, at all levels survives this challenging and costly lockdown. The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has indicated that he might consider offering financial support to some professional sports clubs. At the moment we do not know, even if it does arrive, what that support might look like. 

Until we have that clarity it is impossible for us to know what the future of professional rugby in England looks like. 

It is clear that we are moving further into uncharted waters and a period of continued, deeper, uncertainty in which your support and understanding is needed more than ever. We thank you, sincerely, for it. 
 

Clarification Statement from Jason Whittingham
(25th Sept 2020)

Summary: Jason explaining the difficulties the club are experiencing but that they have a lot of future plans for the club which Covid-19 is going to disrupt

Jason is confident that Warriors will come through this very difficult period. All the clubs are working in unison to ensure Professional Rugby in England will survive and in a sustainable manner. It is clear the government will have to provide a financial package for this to be successful.

Jason also thanks supporters, players and staff who have all supported the club in their hour of need.

Maybe we can help by writting to our MP's with a request for government help to sustain this community asset "Worcester Warriors and the Sixways complex"

CO-OWNER Jason Whittingham insists the short-term future of Worcester Warriors is safe despite stark warnings over the sustainability of Premiership rugby. Whittingham and business partner Colin Goldring issued a statement in response to prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that Covid-19 restrictions prolonging the absence of fans from professional sport would be likely to continue for “perhaps six months”. 

The club revealed such measures would put “additional pressure on our fight for survival and our future plans”, declaring that “Warriors and all professional sports clubs cannot hope to be sustainable without significant support”. It came shortly after Premiership Rugby had highlighted the need for a “rescue package” from government but far from being a prophet of doom, Whittingham explained the address had predominantly sought to bring urgency to talks. 

“The thinking behind it is to raise awareness,” said Whittingham.  “Since long before my time people have harboured the view that rugby union is a bastion of rich sugar daddies, running clubs as hobbies. That may well have been the case up until a few years ago but as soon as Covid struck there was a definite change in attitude from those clubs.  “I think it made everyone realise that the excess in spending and the unsustainability of the sport – not just any one club – needed some control.  “That is why we made immediate moves to start reducing the salary cap because that had got out of kilter with central distribution (of funds). That is going to help the industry going forward and it will certainly help Worcester Warriors. 

“Prior to Covid every club was losing money, probably with the exception of Exeter, and there was nothing on the immediate horizon to suggest it would be any other way.  “As for Warriors specifically, I have never had any doubt that we will come through this situation in a much stronger position than we entered it in.  “Yes, we could always do with more financial support but whatever we sign up to in terms of losses, one thing to remember is that Worcester as a club has a unique opportunity with the development we have planned for the future of the Sixways site. 

“That’s for the future sustainability of the club and the plan has not changed. There was always an amount of money required to get us from here to there until the development starts generating income and that amount of money has now significantly increased because of Covid.  “Now it is a case of finding out what other support there is and until we do that as a sport and suggest we need some help, people aren’t going to help us. 

“The reason for a statement with such sobering content is to start getting this on the agenda, that rugby union is not a wealthy sport. It has owners who are wealthy but the sport itself is not and it needs help. Covid has compounded that. 

“Worcester Warriors will come through this. There is an amount of money we had earmarked to support the club through this but the announcement (over no fans for up to six months) has seen that number go up.  “We are all in it together as owners and clubs and Worcester is certainly not in the worst position in the league.  “Let’s now call on the government to start looking at industry-specific support, particularly when we have returned to playing. 

“This is a community asset that does a great amount of work in and around Worcester through our foundation – it is not just a sport that occupies people on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  “It is time for us to get ourselves farther up the government’s agenda for more support.” 

Asked whether the long-term future of the club could be in jeopardy, Whittingham replied: “The uncertainty here is how long Covid will affect this sport, and the return of crowds in particular. 

“At the moment, fine, we make provision to get through the next phase of Covid which entails up to six months with no crowds.  “We do lots of things at the club that are not rugby related, we put on lots of other events and hospitality evenings that generate income. We are doing more of those now than we ever have done in the past and they all contribute to the trajectory of sustainability.  “At the moment Warriors will be fine but if Covid goes on for two, three or four years? It is all about getting crowds back.  “If it is six months, fine, we will work our way through that. If in six months it becomes another six months then you’d have to ask me the same question then.” 

Whittingham finished with a message of thanks to all the individuals and organisations behind the support Warriors have received during the pandemic. 

Some partners have not only stood by the club but enhanced their offerings, much of which has come from local companies.  “The continued support of sponsors, the community and suppliers is invaluable to the club, now more than ever, and we want to thank them for that,” said Whittingham. 

“That extends to the staff and the players as well, everyone has been hugely supportive and that is the way we get through this together.” 

Sajid Javid - Bromsgrove Nigel Huddleston - Mid Worcestershire Robin Walker - Worcester City Rachel Maclean - Redditch Harriett Baldwin - West Worcestershire
Mark Garnier - Wyre Forrest Jesse Norman - Hereford
& South Herefordshire
Bill Wiggin - North Herefordshire    
 

Gloucester's Chief Exec Lance Bradley says
" without bail-out professional rugby faces ruin
 "
(26th Sept 2020)

Summarry: Simples without financial support from the goverment Professional Rugby in England is finished!

Premiership stalwarts tell Government of perilous position, Lance Bradley says without bail-out professional rugby faces ruin 

Gloucester have laid bare the extent of the financial crisis gripping English professional rugby, warning that the 147-year old club will go out of business within six months without a government bail-out. 

Lance Bradley, Gloucester’s chief executive, has revealed to The Daily Telegraph the full details of the financial woes, forecasting that the club will run out of cash before March following a predicted loss of revenue of £6.2million due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The dramatic revelations come on another bleak day for the sport, with Peter Tom, the Leicester Tigers chairman, describing the new restrictions on crowds as a “disaster” that “threatens the future of the Premiership”. 

Worcester co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, meanwhile, warned that playing matches behind closed doors for another six months was not “sustainable for this club nor for the Premiership as a whole”. 

The chief executives of all the Premiership clubs will hold an emergency conference call today to discuss “the financial Armageddon” facing them, but Premiership Rugby already fears that this week’s decision by the Government to extend the ban on supporters at stadiums until the end of March will lead to combined losses of revenue of £120million. 

The Rugby Football Union has forecast losses of £138million if no supporters can attend England matches at Twickenham during the autumn series and Six Nations Championship, and a further loss of £86million for the community game. The situation is even bleaker for the Championship clubs, who cannot afford to start their season if supporters are not allowed in. Club owners are to hold a key meeting today, with sources indicating their entire season may have to be “mothballed” – which could leave relegated Saracens stuck in English rugby’s second tier for two years. 

Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, and his Premiership Rugby counterpart Darren Childs, met with Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, on Tuesday to make the case for government financial support, and Bradley insists professional rugby in England cannot survive without a bail-out. 

“I don’t know if the Government understands how serious this is,” Bradley said. “We have just been through our numbers this morning and the impact of no fans for six months is a loss of £6.2million. 

“The finance people have done the cash-flow forecast and we will run out of money in the next six months. We will not be able to survive with no fans until March, unless there is an intervention. And we are by no means the worst. There are probably half a dozen clubs in more difficult positions than us and they will go out of business, too. 

“This is the end of the road for professional rugby in this country if there is no intervention.” 

1. Season Ticket Refunds £1.6m 
2. Other Ticket Losses £1.3m 
3. Sponsors Refunds £1.75m 
4. Hospitality £1.3m 
5. Advertising and Commercial £750k 
6. Drink Sales £700k 

+ Reduction in costs £1.3m 

Total Losses = £6.2m 

Analysis of Gloucester’s financial peril reveals forecasts that the club will lose £7.4million in revenue over the next six months, offset by £1.2million of reduced costs. The club have just spent £35,000 on measures to enable up to 8,000 supporters to attend matches while remaining socially distanced, following a successful pilot in which 1,000 fans attended their match against Harlequins this month. 

During the first lockdown, the club furloughed all but seven employees, made up of 150 full-time staff and 200 casuals, while six were made redundant. All staff, including the players, took a pay cut of 25 per cent, but the club still lost £5million. 

“When we went into the lockdown, we had cash reserves of £3million,” added Bradley. “That was all burnt. We had to take loans and the shareholders had to put in a substantial amount as well. 

“As a business, rugby was quite fragile before all this and what is so frustrating is that even with the difficulties that we have had, we were on course to start generating cash next year. But we can’t survive a blow of £6.2million. 

“If Gloucester Rugby was to disappear, all the work that we do in the community would also disappear. The Government can’t let professional sport die in this country – and I don’t believe they will.” 

The immediate concern is the future for the players and Bradley admitted he could not rule out the possibility of further salary cuts and a player exodus, if government help was not forthcoming. 

“We could be in a position where we have to say to players that we are going to go out of business unless we can agree something,” he said. 

“Clearly, we don’t want to do that because we have already cut salaries by 25 per cent. Technically, we would be in breach of contract again. If other countries support their sport or they are in a better position than we are, there will be another drain of top talent going to the likes of France or Japan.” 

 

Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom says Premiership clubs will fold without fans, I believe Premiership clubs will go out of business. 
(26th Sept 2020)

Summary: Professional Rugby is in a precarious state and the clubs cannot save it on their own!

The whole of the Premiership would be threatened. 

Leicester have lost up to £2m after playing four games behind closed doors 

Leicester chairman Peter Tom expects Gallagher Premiership clubs to fold as a result of new restrictions on crowds that also threaten the future of English professional rugby. 

A telephone meeting of the top-flight's chairmen was held on Thursday morning to discuss a way through a crisis that has been renewed by government guidelines preventing fans from attending matches for up to six months. 

For all the unified purpose in ensuring clubs and the league survive a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Tom admits the outlook is bleak. 

"This is a disaster for Premiership Rugby and all the clubs involved," said Tom. "I'm very worried about what the future for English professional rugby is. Nobody will be able to sustain this. "Adjustments have been made to players' salaries and other cuts have been made, but if we have to go another six to nine months like this, it will be absolutely devastating. 

"I believe Premiership clubs will go out of business. The whole of the Premiership would be threatened. 

"Certain clubs have a different structure in the shape of an owner with lots and lots of money. But for the rest, these are brutal times. 

"Myself and the board have two clear objectives - the survival of Leicester Tigers and improve our performance on the pitch." 

Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union have applied for government bailouts and while Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has indicated support will be offered, it is unknown what form this will take.

Even for a club of Leicester's size, the finances are severely stretched after £500,000 was paid back to season-ticket holders two weeks ago and £1.6m to £2m lost on having to stage four home games behind closed doors. 

And with the RFU also being hit hard by the absence of spectators for the Autumn Nations Cup and Six Nations games, there could be a reduction in funding from Twickenham. 

"We were early in realising the consequences in March and April. We had the public fallout with four of the players and we had to make 30-plus people redundant," Tom said. "We were starting to feel more confident, but now we're having to completely rethink what we do. "We came into this in a pretty strong financial position because we put the CVC money back into the business. "Some fans may come under pressure financially because of job losses and things like that, so we have to assume we'll lose season-ticket money as well. 

"We're in as good position as anyone to get through this - except for the clubs with owners who have lots of money - but it will be brutal." 

Worcester voice concerns 

Tom's grim forecast has been echoed across the Premiership with Worcester owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham revealing the Warriors are facing potentially ruinous losses. 

"Playing matches behind closed doors for another six months is clearly not sustainable for this club nor for the Premiership as a whole," a statement read. 

"The additional loss of our events business puts further pressure on our chances for financial survival. 

"Without revenue generated on matchdays from crowds, sponsors and their associated spend, Warriors and all professional sports clubs "At the moment we do not know, even if it does arrive, what that support might look like. 

"Until we have that clarity it is impossible for us to know what the future of professional rugby in England looks like." 

 

Steve Diamond Sale Rugby
(26th Sept 2020)

English professional rugby may not survive Covid-19

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has become the first major figure to suggest that professional rugby union in England could cease to exist due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.


Diamond, who is both Sale Sharks' director of rugby and their acting chief executive, suggested that while his club would be able to survive a continued period of matches behind closed doors, it can only go on for so long.


"The worst-case scenario, and it's not scare-mongering to say we would have to look at this, is that the industry would die across the board," he said.


He said that "drastic job losses" and a "reconstruction" of the organisation would be required to avoid that scenario. Ahead of Friday afternoon's meeting between high-level representatives of the Premiership clubs, Diamond laid out a disturbing prognosis.


"It's not just Sale. Leicester rely on 20,000 people [coming to games] to keep them going. Bath rely on 14,000 spectators week-in, week-out. It's the whole professional game as we know it.


"And at the very top, the RFU are in the same boat – as is all other sport. It looks like only Premier League football is OK."


According to a report by Oakwell Sports Advisory, Premiership clubs stand to lose a combined total of approximately £67.2 million (NZ$130.6m) of match-related revenue if no supporters are allowed into games for the 2020-21 season.


That figure comprises tickets, food and beverages sales and corporate hospitality and also factors in a 15 percent dent in broadcast and commercial income.

With the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby hoping for a rescue package from the Government, Diamond underlined the "dire situation".


"We're not a standalone industry," he added. "Every industry is going through it, but our business relies on people coming through the gates.

 

"Central funding has been cut enormously because the RFU is making no money and you can't live off your TV money. The TV money that comes in is far less than what the salary cap is.


"We're all in a very poor state. Everybody is haemorrhaging money and the haemorrhage is going to be too excessive for some clubs. It is a dire situation.


"We've already cut players' wages. They have not done that in football. All the staff have taken pay-cuts and you can't keep doing that. There has to be some sort of termination or some help."


Imploring the Government to ensure that "the cure isn't worse than the illness" with regard to Covid-19 protocols, Diamond expressed his hope that decision-makers consider the intangible impact of both Premiership and grass-roots clubs, especially in northern England, on their surrounding communities.


"We've done some research and something like 65 percent of England internationals have come from the North," he said. "There is only us and Newcastle [Falcons] in the North.
"Over the past five years, Sale alone has created 200 jobs. We get in front of 10 or 15,000 kids a year in deprived areas and all of that is in question at the minute.


"It isn't just about 16 home games and 16 away games in a season. It's the infrastructure that we provide."

 
Penzance Pirates CEO/Finance Director
Rebecca Thomas
(25 Sept 2020)

After what has been a turbulent six months for everyone and in light of the most recent Government update on the return of spectators to stadiums I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our fans, sponsors, volunteers and staff for all of their support through these difficult times.

It is clear these are times of financial hardship for many industries across the world and we find ourselves in the dire situation where professional sport, for us rugby as we know it, is seriously under threat without the revenues associated with crowds and match days.

The Government support scheme has enabled us to ride out the storm thus far and we have been reluctant to go down the route of pre-selling assets such as season tickets until we received clear guidance on capacity figures/distancing measures that we will need to adhere to. Our aim is to welcome our supporters back in a safe and secure manner while maintaining the fun and relaxed atmosphere we all know and love from our sport.

 

Unfortunately, infection spikes mean that the guidance can change rapidly and we would hate to disappoint our fans with seats not then being available or group sizes being changed

Rest assured we are doing everything we can to protect our Club and its future. The harsh reality of this loss in revenue possibly spanning a further period of six months is now being faced by Clubs at all levels and the impact that this will have on their communities is difficult to comprehend. There will be further discussions with the Championship Clubs and the RFU with regards to the 2020/21 season and we await any changes to the existing Government support scheme that may or may not be made to support industries such as ours.

Please bear with us and further updates will be communicated as we know more. We are missing the sound of a crowd and the buzz from a cracking game of rugby as much as you all and your messages of support, retail purchases and social media interactions really are hugely appreciated during these times.

Please all stay safe and well and we hope to see you soon.