RFU Championship clubs are only being offered loans instead of grants for financial problems, as London Scottish withdraw from the season
Other clubs may have to join London Scottish in withdrawing from the RFU Championship season, due to start March 6, owing to financial problems. Scottish withdrew from the competition after rejecting the offer of a ten-year loan from the government’s Sports Winter Survival Package (SWSP).
The SWSP has only offered Championship clubs loans, instead of essential grants, to cover costs related to Covid. In order to participate in the upcoming season, it will cost between £25,000 and £40,000 a month simply for testing, which is a hefty sum of money for second-tier clubs.
Around £300 million was available for the SWSP to distribute funding for sports and clubs to protect their immediate futures. Both Ampthill and London Scottish had applications for grants refused. Instead, they were simply offered loans, which could potentially have put the clubs’ future finances at risk.
“London Scottish confirms today that the club will not be taking 10-year government loans through the Sports Winter Survival Package in order to play 10 loss-making matches in the reduced format Championship,” a club statement said.
Championship clubs have had no source of income since March 2020, with RFU funding cut by £500,000, a 75% decrease. Also, without any crowds, clubs won’t be able to generate extra income.
Ampthill have responded to the SWSP’s grant rejection with contempt in a club statement, despite still harbouring hopes of featuring in the season.
“We feel let down and abandoned by the SWSP Investment Board,” the statement said. “They refuse to offer grants to rugby clubs despite making grants available to other sports. We just want to be treated fairly.”
“We are potentially not able to take our place for the coming season.”
Ampthill are now appealing for funds through a GoFundMe page in order to help them fulfil the 2021 season. So far they have raised £12,000, partly aided by the generosity of Saracens Supporters (@sarriessupport). England World Cup winners Jason Robinson and Ben Kay have also both publicly offered their support.
Chairman Mark Lavery, speaking to Sky Sports News, is optimistic the club will be able to start the season.
“We have made massive progress since we started our just funding page over the weekend,” Lavery said. “Tens of thousands of pounds have come in. So we are hopeful but we have still got quite a bit of work to do this week.”
Fellow Championship club Coventry have confirmed that they have accepted the government’s offer of a loan. However, they have also claimed that it still isn’t enough to cover all of their costs.
These funding problems for some Championship clubs comes at a time when Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club, also of the Championship, have just invested £1.8 million on the development of a new Centre of Excellence. The contrast to what other clubs are suffering, such as Ampthill and London Scottish, couldn’t be starker.
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