By David Williams
The four Welsh regions have welcomed the £13.5m grant being given to Welsh rugby from Welsh government – part of an overall package of £17.7m to some sports’ governing bodies.
The cash is to help sports hit by the absence of fans during the current pandemic and is meant to ensure they can continue until next season.
As one regional official put it, “this will ensure that when rugby wakes up next season, although they’ll be a massive collective hangover, at least we’ll still be here.”
Support will be provided to rugby union, football, cricket and ice hockey. Rugby league, netball and horseracing are also in line to benefit.
Welsh rugby – which has had to get by without crowds for international matches at the Principality Stadium as well as for the regional game – will get the lion’s share of the cash with a £13.5m grant.
Welsh football – which has also lost fan income – is to get £1.5m, with horse racing taking £1.2m, cricket receiving £1m, ice hockey (£200,000), rugby league (£200,000) and netball (£100,000).
The four Welsh regions have already taken out bank loans worth £20m which they have to repay over a five-year period.
Rugby’s £13.5m will be split equally five ways between the WRU, Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Dragons with each receiving £2.7m.
But it will still leave the game with a significant shortfall and the WRU is likely to need another £20m in loans if they want to avoid huge budget cuts.
Scarlets chairman Simon Muderack said: “The continued absence of our supporters from Parc y Scarlets presents a significant financial challenge and we are grateful to the Welsh Government for this package which will help us at the Scarlets and all of Welsh rugby push through this difficult period.
“The safe return of crowds has been pushed further out than we anticipated so we all recognise there is more work to be done to ensure that rugby as a whole in Wales is back next season.”
WRU chief executive Steve Phillips said: “On behalf of the professional game in Wales I would like to thank Welsh Government for this award from the Spectator Sports Survival Fund.
“During an incredibly challenging time we have found both Welsh Government and Sport Wales accessible, responsive and sympathetic to the plight of our game in Wales.
“We always anticipated there would be challenges with spectator attendance at the recent Autumn Nations Cup. However, with the ongoing nature of the pandemic, no one is able to predict with any certainty when crowds will be allowed back into stadia, allowing our income streams to return to normal. As such this £13.5m grant is timely and hugely helpful.”
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said: “While restrictions on supporters at events have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives, there can be no doubt that they have created real hardships for many sports clubs, many of whom receive a significant proportion of their income through spectator attendance.
“Sport is an important sector of our economy and has a positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. Sporting events provide important shared experiences, have often been a welcome distraction during the pandemic and will be a vital player in our recovery and healing after the crisis.
“I know this money will provide some stability to those sports worst affected by the loss of revenue during the pandemic, helping to bridge the financial gap until spectators are able to return safely.”