Amidst the endless weirdness of these strange times, it seems to me that some of the Government’s decisions within its £300 million emergency support funding for eleven UK sports seriously affected by the pandemic – as regards restrictions upon fans permitted to attend matches/events in the flesh – announced this week take the proverbial biscuit.
The elite level of football and cricket appear to miss out, albeit that football has been granted £28 million (£3 million of which will go half to the WSL and half to the Women’s Championship and the remainder to national league, the fifth tier of the men’s game).
Football’s obscenely wealthy Premier League – told by the Government to support smaller clubs – has apparently so far agreed a £50 million package for teams in League One and Two whilst its discussions are ongoing as to how much support it will offer clubs in the Championship.
Absurdly – given its consistently pathetic record of husbandry and support for the community rugby game – the Rugby Football Union, the richest of all national governing rugby union bodies, which in October revealed it was facing a £145 million revenue shortfall will receive £44 million and the Premier League clubs £59 million.
The British horse racing industry, apparently worth £4 billion annually – with the Racecourse Association allegedly facing a £300 million shortfall and Jockey Club expecting to lose £75 million this year – will receive £40 million.
The Lawn Tennis Association is in line to receive £5 million.
Other sports in line to receive assistance are basketball and netball, but the list of sports and activities that miss out is long.
Yesterday I heard a lady from the Swimming Association on the radio waxing lyrical about how badly her sport has been affected by the closure of pools and hydros.
Of all of those above-mentioned, I fail to see why rugby union has fared so well.
The RFU is a basket case. People regularly argue as to whether the number of English Premiership clubs which make a proper annual operating profit is one or none and supporters’ folklore has it that their accumulated financial losses exceed £70 million.
They’ve also imposed a series of salary cuts ranging as high as 25% upon their playing staffs as a contribution to the struggle to help the sport at elite level survive.
One can only speculate as to how much of the Premiership’s £59 million Government cash injection will end up with the clubs and how much with the top superstar players and their agents.
Meanwhile, of course, the quest to maintain the health of the great British public – encouraged as they are to get out every day to exercise and/or stay fit – is greatly hampered by the enforced closure of gyms and health clubs all over the land.