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01 Apr 2020

World Rugby to provide financial help for struggling unions

World Rugby, the international governing body for rugby union, is preparing to offer financial support to its member unions to ensure they remain afloat as the global coronavirus outbreak impacts on the economics of the sport.

The body is also keen to alter its international calendar and review options for new dates to stage re-arranged games and tournaments.

World Rugby has arranged to present options and contingency plans, both in terms of financial assistance and alternative dates, to its unions at the end of the month after holding a video conference call with stakeholders to discuss the matter earlier this week.

The meeting featured chief executives from several Six Nations and Sanzaar countries including England, Italy, France, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. 

Rugby Australia and England’s Rugby Football Union are set to be among the tier-one unions seeking financial support from World Rugby.

Earlier this week, RA announced an operating loss of A$9.4 million ($5.7 million) for 2019 and admitted it will be forced to action “significant cuts” for the sport to remain “financially viable.”

Chief executive Raelene Castle had revealed that World Rugby has “put a formal process in place” to analyse how it can provide loans for its tier-one nations. 

Last week, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney revealed it could suffer losses of up to £50 million ($62.1 million) over the next 18 months. 

World Rugby said the process to support its nations “includes a detailed and collaborative financial assessment of the global impact to help inform a potential short-term relief approach for those in greatest need at this extraordinary time.”

USA Rugby, the national governing body for the sport, has already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but is aiming to restructure with the support of World Rugby.

Other major governing bodies across sport are also beginning to put plans in place to provide financial support for its members, with Fifa announcing an emergency fund to help the soccer industry.  

World Rugby will also be tasked with rescheduling games in major competitions, with this year’s Six Nations having four postponed games outstanding.

The 12-game Rugby Championship, the annual international competition contested by South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia, is scheduled to take place in an eight-week window during August and September. 

World Rugby has made it a priority to complete those competitions, with the July and November tests involving its tier-one and tier-two nations next on the agenda.

The governing body said: “We are collaborating with all stakeholders to determine a package of potential competition calendar options that supports the international and club game by optimising revenue opportunity when it is safe to return to the field, whilst promoting important player welfare considerations.”