The Government has appointed independent advisers to support rugby union chiefs as they attempt to preserve the future of the professional game.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced former Rugby Football League CEO Ralph Rimmer and UK Sport’s Chris Pilling will support the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby Limited in their efforts to reshape the game’s “future strategic financial and sporting direction”.
The move comes with London Irish facing suspension from the Gallagher Premiership unless a takeover has been completed or they can demonstrate they have the funding needed to operate for the entirety of the 2023-24 season by June 6, following the recent failures of Worcester and Wasps.
NEWS: Independent Advisors appointed to help stabilise rugby union's future@TheRFL's former CEO Ralph Rimmer and @uk_sport's Chris Pilling will work with the Rugby Football Union and @premrugby on their plans for the future of professional rugby unionhttps://t.co/lwMYdCGN1g pic.twitter.com/dG6OV419mM
— Department for Culture, Media and Sport (@DCMS) June 2, 2023
A DCMS statement said: “The issues at Worcester, Wasps and London Irish have laid bare the challenges facing the sport of rugby union.
“The inability of rugby clubs to raise capital investment and the financial challenges at various levels within the game have contributed to the need for urgent work to help secure rugby union’s immediate future and advise on its future direction.”
The Government stepped in to support rugby at elite and grassroots levels during the Covid-19 pandemic, but many clubs are still dealing with the impact.
Sports Minister Stuart Andrew added: “This is a challenging time for rugby union and Ralph and Chris have agreed to utilise their experience to help the game develop a clear path for the future.
“We have seen several high-profile clubs and their fans left devastated in recent times and this additional independent advice will be of huge benefit to the RFU and PRL as they look to implement a new strategic direction for rugby.”
RFU CEO Bill Sweeney welcomed further Government backing and called upon those involved in the game to set aside “self-interest” in the quest for a sustainable future.
He said: “The restructuring of the Professional Game Agreement into a strategic partnership provides a great opportunity for all stakeholders to set aside self-interest and collaborate to reset and secure the future long-term sustainable growth of the professional game including developing the strongest possible second tier.”