Government to provide £300m sport bailout package

Ben Rumsby
·3-min read
Rugby union is expected to be the biggest beneficiary, but only in terms of loans - PA
Rugby union is expected to be the biggest beneficiary, but only in terms of loans - PA

A £300 million coronavirus bailout for sport will be announced by the Government on Thursday in a bid to stop clubs and entire competitions going bust.

It can be revealed that rugby union, rugby league, racing, basketball, netball and women’s football are among 11 sports which will receive a combination of grants and loans to cover losses incurred from them being forced to play behind closed doors.

But Premier League and English Football League teams will receive nothing in line with ministers’ demand that the world’s richest league rescues the rest of the professional men’s game.

Rugby union is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the bailout, but only in terms of loans, with England and Premiership clubs having been forced to play behind closed doors during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, sports minister Nigel Huddleston announced he would be making a statement on financial support for the sport sector in the House of Commons the following day.

Sport’s finances have been ravaged by the loss of match-day revenue, with plans to allow a limited number of fans to attend events from October 1 scrapped following a rise in Covid-19 infections.

It emerged this week that Government had been exploring the possibility of spectators being allowed into venues by Christmas in areas with the lowest coronavirus infection rates once the second national lockdown ends.

But the Daily Telegraph has been told Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, played down the prospect of such an early return on a call with sport’s leaders on Wednesday morning.

Boris Johnson, who on Monday told MPs privately that reopening sports grounds was “a personal priority”, said during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday afternoon: “I understand the frustration over fans and we hope to get crowds back in the ground as soon as possible.”

He was also asked about a rescue package for the EFL, replying: “We don’t want any football team to go out of business as a result of this pandemic and we’re doing everything we can.”

The Premier League has made offers of support and Leagues One and Two clubs are now in negotiations over a £50million rescue package made up of £20m in grants and £30m in loans, which they want converted to grants only.

Meanwhile, the petition to exempt golf courses from the list of venues required to close during lockdown will be debated on Monday.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf had previously admitted defeat in its bid to keep courses open after writing to Johnson on behalf of England Golf, the PGA, the R&A and other leading groups from the industry.

However the petition, which has received more than 257,000 signatures, will now be debated in Westminster Hall, along with a similar one relating to gyms.

Catherine McKinnell MP, chair of the petitions committee, will lead the debate. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will send a minister to respond.

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said: “We know the benefits our sport can provide for both mental and physical health at this time of isolation and hope the Government can recognise this during the upcoming debate and support golf’s return to playing.

“Earlier this year, the game of golf was able to clearly demonstrate that it could be enjoyed in a Covid-safe way, which is why it was one of the first sports to return once restrictions were lifted.

“This was a privilege that the sport took incredibly seriously and accordingly adopted the highest possible standards to keep participants safe.”