Coronavirus: Rugby Players’ Association calls for financial help from government

Harlequins centre Joe Marchant evades the tackle of Gloucester winger Louis Rees-Zammit during a Premiership match at Kingsholm
Gloucester’s match against Harlequins earlier this month was played in front of 1,000 fans at KIngsholm

The Rugby Players’ Association says a government-backed rescue package is of “vital importance” to save the game in England during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Premiership clubs have played behind closed doors since the 2019-20 campaign restarted in August.

Fans may not to be able to return to watch live sporting events in England until the end of March at the earliest.

The RPA has called for “significant financial support” to help the game through “this challenging time”.

The majority of Premiership players took a 25% pay cut in March, following the suspension of the season.

And earlier this month the England men’s squad accepted a similar cut for the next 12 months.

“Premiership clubs have already suffered significant financial losses from the suspension of the season following the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequently playing matches behind closed doors,” an RPA statement said.

“To continue along this path will cause irrevocable damage to clubs across the Premiership that will impact the wider game and communities they serve in England.”

Two top-flight games were involved in the pilot scheme for the return of spectators to sporting events, but plans to continue the trial have been shelved following a rise in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union has said that fixtures outside the Premiership, Championship and women’s top tier will not be able to take place until at least January 2021.

RPA chief executive Damien Hopley has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for players, clubs, fans and broader rugby communities if crowds are not allowed back into grounds.

“No-one is immune from the impact of what this latest government statement is saying,” Hopley told BBC Sport.

“There are a lot of very nervous players out there, worried about what next season looks like and their own livelihoods and futures.

“Looking at the stark warnings coming out from club owners, Premiership Rugby and RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, you would have to bury your head in the ground to not think the biggest cost base in the game is players’ salaries.

“We may well be looking at another round of negotiations and consultations around what that looks like.

“We’re obviously hoping that isn’t the case, having gone through a challenging few months.”

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