Sports officials have given a cautious welcome to the government’s £300million ‘Winter Survival Package’ designed to mitigate the loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eleven sports are earmarked to receive £241m in indicative funding to cover the disruption to their usual earnings over the winter, with an independent decision-making board tasked with making the final calls on who gets what.
The remainder of the £300m, which sports minister Nigel Huddleston estimated to be £250m in loans and £50m in grants, will be kept as a contingency fund to assist with unforeseen pressures.
England Netball chief executive Fran Connolly said the initial £2million boost for her sport came as a “huge relief” after fears the growth of the grass-roots level of the sport may be set to stall.
“It is a huge relief to hear that England Netball has been named amongst the beneficiaries eligible for this funding,” said Connolly.
“We are passionate about playing our part in protecting the incredible progress made by female sports over the past couple of years and building on the momentum from the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup.”
Elite Ice Hockey League chairman Tony Smith also welcomed the news but said he was seeking clarification on how his sport’s £4m funds will be allocated.
“The Elite League is delighted that the government has recognised the importance of ice hockey across the UK and that the EIHL has been included in this unprecedented support package,” he said.
“Our clubs have worked extremely hard to mitigate the impact of loss of spectators at our events, and sadly that has included job losses.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden accepted the dire need of a cash injection ino the industry but added there was “definitely a chance” of some spectators being allowed into venues by Christmas.
Rugby Union is set to receive £135m in the package, racecourses will get £40m, while the Rugby Football League will benefit to the tune of a further £12m, topping up the £16m announced in May to safeguard rugby league’s future.
Huddleston rejected suggestions the government was favouring so-called ‘upper-class’ sports, and repeated his calls for the Premier League and the EFL to strike a deal to protect lower-level football clubs.
“To be able to support others, there is no alternative option other than Government to come in, whereas in the EFL, there is the alternative option of Premier League funding,” added Dowden.
“We are doing everything we can to encourage (EFL chairman) Rick (Parry) and (Premier League chief executive) Richard (Masters) to come to a reasonable arrangement,” Huddleston said.
“The fact that the initial deal was rejected is a statement of fact and I appeal to Richard and Rick to both compromise and come to reasonable terms.
“The fact that the initial deal was rejected is a statement of fact and I appeal to Richard and Rick to both compromise and come to reasonable terms.”