Rugby league first in line for Government aid but bailout comes with conditions

THE magnitude of the Rugby Football League’s success in securing a £16m emergency Government loan to help save the sport is illustrated by the fact they were warned of a “high possibility” their bid would fail.

Ralph Rimmer (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

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In a media briefing yesterday, RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer gave further details on the crucial rescue package which is provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to help ease the financial burden caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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So far, rugby league is the only sport to receive such aid but a “very grateful” Rimmer revealed: “There have been numerous hurdles that have had to be traversed in order to get there.

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer has warned the Government’s £16million loan to the sport will not be a “gravy train” for clubs. (Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire)

“Right at the start, DCMS made it very clear that there was a high possibility that we might fail.

“But we have been relentless and the game has supplied information whenever it has needed to. I won’t go directly into the terms of the loan. It’s certainly not a gravy train; there are conditions attached to this money.

“There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure on Government at this moment in time to support not only other sports, but other organisations.

“It’s only right and proper they put fairly onerous conditions on any monies that flow from them.

“We’ll use it wisely to steer ourselves into a better place.”

The RFL will now administer the funds with only English clubs allowed to apply for help.

With the sport shutdown since mid-March and no sign of it resuming any time soon, numerous owners and chief executives had voiced concerns about the future of their clubs unless there was Government intervention.

Rimmer says none of the funds will filter down to the community game as their needs have already been satisfied by Sport England.

However, neither will the money be split equally between the professional clubs.

“We speak to the clubs nearly every day and understand the interventions required,” added Rimmer, with players already furloughed and last week taking pay cuts.

“We’ve put a robust formula in place and we will audit it all to make sure the funds are used properly - and we’re audited by Government in that regard too.

“We have to make it last as long as we can. The governing body and the sport took some fairly drastic measures in order to cut their cloth when lockdown began.

“None of those measures should be backtracked and we have to reshape for the future going forward.

“It’s all about making ourselves fit for the future and it’s not about landing a lump sum in the bank account of each club and saying crack on; we have to be far more meticulous than that.”

Rimmer confirmed the money would be supplied in the coming days but added: “It will be in relation to the intervention required to ensure a safe passage.

“The clubs will have to apply; we submitted profiles to DCMS two or three weeks ago which they’ve run an eye over and they understand there will be a degree of due diligence.

“It won’t be a straight line for clubs; some have an ability to access other funds and many have benefitted from the interventions by Government.

“All of the points that are raised have been collated and submitted to Government; they understand how each of the clubs have taken advantage of what is on offer and the gaps on funding.”

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