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World Rugby unveils $100m global relief package 

Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby chairman, during the 2021 Rugby World Cup Launch Event at Eden Park (by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

World Rugby has announced that it has established a relief fund of $100m (£80.4m/€92.2m) as it looks to steer the sport through the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The strategy will see the cash made available immediately to any union requiring emergency funding. For Six Nations unions – those of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales – and the Sanzaar nations – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand South Africa – the financial package will involve a combination of advances on rights fee payments and loans.

World Rugby has said it is “also committed to supporting emergency nations and regional associations where required”.

Rugby has been severely affected by the pandemic. The Scottish Rugby Union has announced a series of pay cuts, as well as furloughing 75 per cent of its staff this week; England’s Rugby Football Union has said it expects losses of up to £50m ($62.2m/€57.3m) due to the crisis; while New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia have undertaken similarly drastic cost-saving measures. USA Rugby filed for bankruptcy last month. 

In its statement, World Rugby described the crisis as the sport’s “greatest challenge”.

One of the major issues has been the rearrangement of the calendar, with international competitions such as the Six Nations and the Autumn Test matches among the sport’s biggest revenue drivers. World Rugby has said it is exploring options for restarting the sport, but among its contingencies is the possibility that no international rugby will be feasible until 2021. 

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper recently said it may still be possible to schedule international rugby matches this November, although it appears increasingly likely that Northern Hemisphere countries’ summer tours of Southern Hemisphere nations will have to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

Speaking at the start of the month, Gosper also said that World Rugby would provide €1m ($1.08m) in financial support to USA Rugby, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. World Rugby would also offer administrative help, he said, adding that the compensation figure could ultimately rise to €2m.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said today (Thursday): “Global sport is facing a crisis never seen before and at this most challenging time we are taking unprecedented action as a sport united to support global rugby, its unions, competitions and players through the enormous challenge presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The measures announced today will provide support and short-term relief in the form of a $100m relief fund, while we are committed to exploring calendar options that reflect and address a dynamic, complex and uncertain environment.”

Earlier this week, Beaumont outlined his pledge to undertake a major governance review if he is re-elected next month. The vote will take place digitally, with Beaumont running against his former close ally and current World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot.