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Rugby league lands £16m support package from UK government

Thomas Leuluai during the Super League match between Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The UK government has announced an emergency loan of £16m (€18m/$20m) to support rugby league in England, with the manifesto including a commitment to delivering a successful Rugby League World Cup next year.

The loan is to be administered by the Rugby Football League (RFL) in partnership with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The loan is designed to support rugby league and its clubs through the financial challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Significant financial support has already been provided to ensure England delivers successful men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cups next year.

All Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs based in England will be eligible to apply for the funding. More details on when the fund will open and how clubs can apply will be announced in due course.

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of rugby league.

“We recognise that many RFL clubs operate on very tight financial margins. Without their ability to stage matches with spectators and despite the government’s extensive economic package, the professional game has come very close to collapsing.”

Dowden added: “Sports across the board are facing unprecedented pressures, and we are supporting them through wider government measures. In this case we are intervening as an exception, not to save an individual business or organisation, but to protect an entire sport, the community it supports, the World Cup held here next year and its legacy for generations to come.”

Ralph Rimmer, RFL chief executive, said: “The RFL is grateful to the government for understanding and acting on the case for the whole sport.

“In these very tough times for the country and huge demands on government, this is confirmation of why rugby league is important – our USP – the sport’s significant social impact in northern communities in particular.

“Rugby league is not a wealthy sport but is rich in the things that matter most – outstanding sporting and life chances in often disadvantaged communities. The effects of lockdown at the start of our season genuinely threatened the survival of our clubs at all levels and their ability to continue delivering those positive social and economic impacts.”

Next year’s men’s World Cup will take place from October 23 to November 27, with the women’s event scheduled for November 9-27. The wheelchair World Cup will run from November 11-26.

The World Cup will be held predominantly in the north of England, with Manchester’s Old Trafford to host the finals of the men’s and women’s competitions. Venues in Bolton, Coventry, Doncaster, Hull, Kirklees, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, Sheffield, St Helens, Tees Valley, Trafford, Warrington, Wigan, Leigh and York will also be used.