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World Rugby confirms €92 million relief fund for ailing unions

Meanwhile, current talks over the 2020 calendar could lead to ‘long-term reform’ of the sport.

Image: Ashley Western

WORLD RUGBY HAS confirmed that it will put approximately €92 million [US$100 million] into a relief fund to keep ailing unions afloat until rugby is able to resume again after being put on hold by the Covid-19 crisis.

The relief fund “will potentially involve a combination of advances and loans” for Six Nations and Rugby Championship unions, while World Rugby says it is committed to supporting emerging nations where required.

The sport’s governing body also confirmed that discussions about possible scenarios for a resumption of rugby in 2020 are ongoing, while suggesting that the current conversations could lead to a “long-term reform” of the global calendar. 

england-v-south-africa-2019-rugby-world-cup-final-yokohama-stadium World Rugby made lots of money from last year's World Cup. Source: Ashley Western

As things stand, rugby unions around the world are desperately hoping that the sport can resume as soon as possible, with the financial impact of postponed and cancelled fixtures being felt across the game.

Rugby Australia is one of the unions who will require financial assistance from World Rugby, while the likes of New Zealand Rugby and Scottish Rugby are among those to have confirmed pay cuts for players and staff in recent times.

World Rugby’s “dedicated COVID-19 relief strategy” aims to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the sport by preventing any unions from going under.

“Underpinned by a relief fund of approximately US$100 million to assist unions through to the resumption of the sport, the strategy reflects World Rugby’s commitment to leading the sport through its greatest challenge and is a result of cross-game collaboration that has enabled key decisions to be taken in the spirit of solidarity and partnership,” reads a World Rugby statement.

“The relief fund will be available for unions requiring immediate emergency funding subject to appropriate criteria being met. It is designed to assist the maximum number of unions for the maximum amount of time while there is a rugby void.

“For 6 Nations and SANZAAR unions, the financial package will potentially involve a combination of advances and loans, while World Rugby is also committed to supporting emerging nations and regional associations where required.”

While it’s extremely unclear when sport will be able to resume, even behind closed doors, World Rugby also announced that it continues to discuss a viable 2020 international calendar with with the Six Nations, SANZAAR, national unions [in consultation with their leagues] and International Rugby Players, the players’ body.

The July Tests, including Ireland’s trip to Australia, are extremely unlikely to go ahead as scheduled, meaning World Rugby will work with these various parties to figure out how they might adapt if rugby can resume in at some stage in 2020.

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agustin-pichot-to-challenge-sir-bill-beaumont-for-world-rugby-chairman-role Agustin Pichot and Bill Beaumont are seeking election as World Rugby chairman next month. Source: Brian Lawless

Interestingly, World Rugby believes that the current talks could lead to a more aligned global calendar.

“While initially a response to an unprecedented crisis, the modelling work achieved potentially provides direction for long-term reform of the rugby calendar,” reads the statement.

In the shorter-term, World Rugby will continue to lead scenario planning in the event that rugby can be played again in 2020.

“This includes likely short-term reshaping of the international rugby calendar, optimising competition opportunities for unions and domestic leagues,” said World Rugby.

“As a prudent precaution, further scenario planning factors in a competition environment where cross-hemisphere travel might not be possible and, in the worst-case scenario, where no international rugby is possible this year.”

World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont – who is standing for re-election next month as Agustin Pichot challenges for his position – welcomed the collaborative spirit in the meetings so far.

“I have chaired many productive meetings in recent weeks with my union, region, competition and player colleagues and we are rapidly moving towards a viable calendar solution and, while compromises are being made, the outcome will be in the best interests of the whole game,” said Beaumont.

“This is a process with solidarity, unity and leadership at heart – one that sets a potential blueprint for successful collaboration in the future and I would like to thank everyone for their openness, cooperation and global view.”

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