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England Rugby boss warns of 'catastrophic' consequences if game does not resume until 2021

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Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney says the governing body will lose £107million if the autumn internationals are cancelled. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney says the governing body will lose £107million if the autumn internationals are cancelled. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney says the governing body will lose £107million if the autumn internationals are cancelled. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire

England Rugby boss Bill Sweeney has warned of the potential "catastrophic" consequences for the the sport, if rugby is not allowed to resume until the summer of 2021.

Fears are continuing to grow that rugby as we know it, is still quite some time away from returning, particularly due to its contact nature.

Medical guidelines set out by World Rugby, state games will have to take place behind closed doors until a vaccine for Covid-19 has been discovered.

As well as that, last weekend, Dr Cillian De Gascun of the National Public Health Emergency Team issued a stark warning that the November internationals were unlikely to go ahead, which would come as another devastating blow to the unions' coffers, including the IRFU.

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Speaking this morning, the Rugby Football Union's (RFU) chief executive officer Sweeney, admitted the RFU would lose out on £85 million if the Autumn internationals were to be played behind closed doors, while that figure would rise to a staggering £107m if the games were cancelled.

Those figures would add to the £15m that the RFU have already lost for the rugby year, which ends next month.

Sweeney insisted that if the autumn Tests do go ahead with crowds, as now appears highly unlikely, the RFU were predicting they would still lose £32m in the 20/21 financial year.

The IRFU are also counting the severe cost of the global pandemic as two of Ireland's Six Nations games were postponed, while this summer's tour to Australis is not expected to go ahead, as well as three lucrative home games in the November series being in serious doubt.

"That would be catastrophic, 85pc of our income comes from hosting men’s international games at Twickenham," Sweeney told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee today.

"Twickenham is a major asset for us. When you own a stadium it is a major cost and at the same time brings in large revenue.

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"If this was to be prolonged and the Six Nations games were impacted, then it would be a catastrophic impact on rugby union in England.

"We would be looking at some very severe situations."

Sweeney insisted that such a devastating financial impact would require a recovery plan of four to six years.

"If the autumn internationals go ahead in November, which are key for us, we will still lose £32 million in revenue," he explained.

"If they go ahead but behind closed doors that is a negative impact of £85m and if they are cancelled entirely that will be £107m on top of the £15m we have already lost. So, it is a very significant loss of revenue and we are doing what we can to mitigate it."

Sweeney also revealed that discussions about the Six Nations going behind a TV paywall have been put on hold for now.

Meanwhile, the RFU have announced that Umbro will become England's official kit sponsor in September.

Umbro have signed a four-year deal, understood to be worth in the region of £5m, and have replaced the outgoing Canterbury.


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