Rugby league gets another Government aid package as recreational sport returns

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer hailed the “ongoing practical support” from the Government and Sport England after the sport received a further £18m in financial support.

The latest tranche of funding from the Government’s winter phase of its Sport Survival Package has been announced with £40m provided to horse racing, rugby league, speedway and drag racing, alongside approximately £10m in further support for National League football clubs.

Men’s professional rugby league clubs will receive a further £16.7m in loans, delivered as a top-up to the existing £16m emergency loan scheme provided by the Government in May 2020.

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This is in addition to £1.45m of grant support from the scheme for the community and women’s games which complements £300,000 grassroots financial support through the Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund.

Leeds Rhinos' Bodene Thompson is stopped by the Wakefield defence. on Saturday (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Rugby league, whose Super League campaign started this weekend, has still been unable to see crowds return in this country since the initial lockdown 12 months ago, and hosts a World Cup for the men’s game, women’s game and wheelchair disciplines this autumn.

Rimmer said: “We are very grateful to Government and Sport England for their ongoing practical support to Rugby League.

“Lockdowns and restrictions have meant a two-season impact in Rugby League with professional and community clubs having had virtually no revenue from spectators for the whole of the 2020 season and the first part of this season.

“Playing, watching and being involved in the sport will be central to the recovery of our communities. We’re excited to be back at all levels with clubs delivering outstanding sporting entertainment and a huge range of vital activities at the heart of their communities.”

Castleford's Jordan Turner scores a try in their opening-weekend win over Warrington (PIcture:

The news comes on a significant day for recreational sport with organised team sports set to resume today in line with the government’s roadmap for a return to normality following the widespread disruption caused by Covid-19. Parents and guardians are being urged to help their children follow the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, with adults advised to take at least 150 minutes a week.

For England cricket captain Eoin Morgan, the lifting of lockdown restrictions is timed perfectly with the weather starting to brighten up.

“I know how lucky I’ve been as a sportsperson to play cricket for a living, and to have been able to continue to do so during the ongoing pandemic while so many others have been unable to,” said World Cup-winning captain Morgan.

“The reason I started playing cricket as a child was because I loved it, but it also helped me keep fit and active, spend time with my friends, make new ones and have fun.

RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer: Has welcomed the further pledge of financial support from the Government (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“I know that so many people, and especially children, have missed out on those vitally important things because of the pandemic so I’m delighted to endorse the #returntoplay campaign.

“With summer – and the cricket season – just around the corner, there’s no better time for everyone, young and old, to get back to having fun by getting outdoors, being active and playing sport.”

Other sports facilities such as football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools and golf courses can also now reopen safely. Youth sport is a top priority in the roadmap and last week the government announced £100million has now been allocated to 266 local authorities across England to support the recovery of publicly-owned leisure centres and gyms.

Grassroots sports and the physical activity sector are also benefiting from £270m in emergency funding delivered by Sport England.

England's Eoin Morgan, left, is excited for recreational cricket's return. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

“Over the past year we have prioritised the importance of physical activity, permitting basic exercise at all times,” said sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

“However the reality is that activity levels have still dropped in lockdown. That’s why outdoor grassroots sport reopening today is so important.”

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