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RFU paint dire picture of its financial security, but pledges rescue package for clubs

Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones is expected to be included in group of RFU senior executives set to asked to accept a 25 per cent pay cut to save costs, as the body revealed it is anticipating losses of up to £50m.

The coronavirus pandemic has made a wide-ranging impact on rugby in England but the RFU said it would step in to help clubs with a £7m rescue package available in grants and loans.

After holding a video conference with the RFU board, chief executive Bill Sweeney and other senior figures agreed to take a 25 per cent cut for the year ahead.

England head coach Jones was not party to the meeting and the cut does not apply to the Australian currently, but it is expected he will be asked to also agree to a reduction in salary as the top brass in the union bear the brunt of lost revenue.

Jones is the highest paid coach in rugby on a salary of £750,000 and the RFU said it was having to take measures while ‘in the unknown’.

Forecast to lose £45-50m over the next 18 months, Sweeney explained why urgent action was needed at the top of the game in England.

“We are managing in the unknown,” Sweeney said. “We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium-term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn.

“We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.

“The RFU had budgeted for a ­loss-making year within a four-year ­cycle due to the costs of the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country.

“The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to reinvest in the game. In that sense, we are like every other club in the union: when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

“We estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this.”

The scaling up of support for clubs comes in the wake of Welsh, Scottish and Irish unions all creating emergency funding for their respective grassroots.

Despite the prospect of large losses, the RFU has decided to ringfence funding available to clubs. In the short-term this includes an £800,000 cash injection through the ticketing fund and an additional £600,000 to constituent bodies.

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