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Grassroots specialists share skeptical view over RFU £7m aid package

The RFU has been warned by grassroot specialists that its £7m financial aid package will be quickly be swallowed up as clubs descend into a ‘state of panic’ over their short-term outlook.

Last month saw the first loans processed to clubs who had applied for relief in earnest. As figures such as Nottingham chairman Alistair Bow and Esher director John Inverdale have voiced their fears over the lack of speed from the RFU to TRP in recent weeks, there are concerns over how far £7m will stretch in the current climate.

Available for clubs in the Championship all the way down to the bottom of English rugby’s structure, forecast losses after becoming to turn into reality as Coventry announced this week they had lost £750,000 as a result of rugby lying dormant and ancillary events over the summer being affected.

David Johnson-Rayner, of community interest company Koi Sports, specialises in helping clubs evaluate their operating costs and believes the overriding sense is that £7m falls well short of what is required.

“It is a ridiculous figure when you consider the grassroots sector runs into the millions of participants and the number of clubs runs into hundreds of thousands. If you are looking to help people, and money is the way to help them, £7m isn’t going to go an awfully long way,” Johnson-Rayner told TRP.

“Clubs which are run by volunteers, applying to that fund is going to take more time writing up their bid which they might not understand how to do. We run a bid writing side to our business as well to help grassroots clubs access pots of money.

“I don’t think £7m is enough and just hope that it is only part of a larger amount to be made available.”

As the Premier League finds £125m for lower league clubs and the England & Wales Cricket Board offers £61m to cricket’s grassroots, the gravity of lost finances looks set to test rugby’s capabilities and its place within communities.

“This is every sports club suffering,” Johnson-Rayner added. The income lost by those who depend on people coming through the gate to watch matches, it’s horrible to think where they could lead.

“Any club that goes to the wall no matter what reason is a real shame from our point of view. It shouldn’t happen. Most communities are tied to their clubs; you either go watch it, or aspire to play for it, or end up playing for it. We want to get heavily involved and believe we have the model to do that, and to help.

“There are good organisations able to help and thank goodness they are out there. Even if it’s just advice that they need, that can be just as valuable as money in an unprecedented situation such as this.”

Koi Sports invite those Professional and Amateur Clubs suffering financially from the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak, to contact us. Our free of charge “Clubs in Crisis” programme has been established to ensure that no club should have to face the risk of closure. Email: david.johnson-rayner@koisports.co.uk

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