free counter

Rimmer discusses details of £16 million government loan given to rugby league

The RFL boss held a press conference this morning. In light of the announcement late last night the the government have provided the RFL with a £16 million loan in order to support the sport of rugby …

The RFL boss held a press conference this morning.

In light of the announcement late last night the the government have provided the RFL with a £16 million loan in order to support the sport of rugby league and ensure its survival through the current coronavirus pandemic, RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer addressed the sport’s media this morning to provide some details of the agreements made and how the loan may be distributed.

Here’s everything the RFL boss had to say on the matter…

Q: Can you shed shed some light on whether any of the clubs were close to going to the wall before you got this intervention from the government?

Rimmer: I won’t name individual clubs, I think it’s realistic to understand the fact that we’re not a wealthy sport, we don’t have a great string of wealthy owners and that means, as you’d expect, that a lot of clubs have been under extreme pressure.

The government intervention is very very welcome and the level of engagement I’ve had from the government over the last six weeks has been extraordinary, so this is timely and will help us reshape and reemerge and the sport will undoubtedly benefit from the support.

Q: It’s a loan, so how is it going to be paid back and will it be tied into the World Cup?

Rimmer: It won’t necessarily be tied into the World Cup. There is a relationship between us and the World Cup and that’s all money towards the sport and the World Cup is massively important to the government. They understand, as everyone does, the reemergence of the nation will be bolstered by sport and the good feeling that it brings and the World Cup is on that horizon.

I won’t go into any great detail on the terms of the loan, but nevertheless we have some responsibilities in this and you’d expect the government show good stewardship over any money as they are under an unbelievable amount of pressure at this moment in time to support not only sports and other organisations, so it’s only right and proper that they put some conditions on the money that flows from them, and that’s fine.

Q: You’ve said that you’ll administer the loan, can you give us any idea of how you plan to distribute it, will it go all the way down to community clubs? 

Rimmer: It won’t go to community clubs because their needs have been satisfied through some other interventions that we’ve been working on which are through Sport England and I know that several of our clubs have benefited from that already so community lays separate to this.

As far as the professional clubs go, and that’s from top to bottom, luckily because we’re the governing body we have a pretty good understanding of the financial landscape and we speak to clubs almost every day, so we understand where the interventions will be required. We’ve put a fairly robust formula in place and the clubs will have to apply for funds.

We will then audit those stringently to make sure the funds are used properly and we will in turn be audited by the government which is again reasonable stewardship.

Q: How much of a cushion does this give the sport in terms of time and securing its short term future?

Rimmer: We have to make it last as long as we can. The sport, the governing body and all the clubs took some fairly drastic measures to cut their costs when this lockdown began. None of those measures will be backtracked and we have to reshape going forward.

There will be an element of due diligence from government on how we spend it, it’s all about moving forward and making ourselves fit for the future. It’s certainly not about landing a lump sum in the bank account of each club and saying crack on because we have to be far more meticulous and make sure the money is used wisely to make sure we are sustainable in the future.

Q: Is this the end of your discussions with the government or could you go back to them in the future for another loan?

Rimmer: Our dialogue with the government will undoubtedly continue. Over the last ix weeks I’ve probably been on the phone four or five times a day and in that we’ve developed a strong partnership. They understand what we deliver into our communities and in times of extreme stress, which we are in, what we do has a much heightened importance, so I expect the dialogue to continue to make sure we continue to deliver because this is about partnership and I’m very grateful for their recognition.

Q: On the dialogue you’ve had with the government, is this loan something you were given an early indication might be a possibility or is it something you’ve had to put quite a strong case forward for for the sport?

Rimmer: The bar is very very high. It’s been six weeks in the making and there have been innumerable hurdles to overcome in order to get here. Right at the start they made it clear that there was a high possibility that we were going to be an unlucky loser, but we’ve been relentless and that game has been very supportive whenever we’ve needed them.

We have the luxury of sitting in the middle of the sport and communicate with everybody and give evidence of what we do in the communities. The Rugby League Dividend, which is a piece of work done by Manchester Metropolitan University, commissioned 18 months ago, has been invaluable to this as it has demonstrated how important we are to those hard to reach communities which are not only important to the government but to the nation.

Q: In terms of the eligibility, it’s English clubs; so does that mean that Toulouse, Catalans, Toronto and the Welsh clubs are ineligible and how many clubs would you expect to make an application.

Rimmer: The clubs which are not British nationals were taken from the equation, so they won’t benefit from this money. I don’t know exactly how many will apply. We have some idea of where we think the intervention is needed and the clubs will apply to us with their different business models.

Some have benefited greatly from the government interventions already made and there are some who will need more support than others. It’s important we use the money to get the collective through, we have a responsibility to do that.

Q: You’ve talked about British nationals, but where does that leave West Wales and North Wales and also Toronto are based in England, can they apply at all?

Rimmer: No they can’t. The government have been very specific about that, but there will be a conversation about the Welsh clubs because there is a devolved power in relation to sport there.

Q: This is going to be a loan from the government, presumably the financial help you can give to clubs you’ll give that on a loan basis, it won’t be a grant and they’ll ultimately have to pay it back?

Rimmer: I won’t go into the direct terms of the loan but the basis of it is the work that the clubs do away from the field as much as anything else, which is vital in their communities.

But nevertheless the professional sport does lie at the centre of that and, if we’re smart about how we use the money and we reshape and navigate ourselves through and start playing some sport in our 125th year and demonstrate our resilience, then we’ll celebrate the sport that we’ve got. I’ve no ambition for us to wimper into the play off period this season, I want us to punch the air and show people what we’ve missed.

Q: There’s been some stark warning from clubs about them going to wall and possibly going out of business, are you confident that the sport can come through this as a whole now that we’ve got this money?

Rimmer: I think that’s partly down to our stewardship to this point, but this is by no means a gravy train. There are conditions and responsibilities attached to this money and we’ll use it to steer ourselves into a better place and that responsibility lies with us.

Q: Obviously the demands of Super League clubs will be different to the Championship and League 1, do you envision giving out the loan club by club as an equal share or will some get more than others depending on their demands?

Rimmer: It certainly won’t be equal, it will be in relation to the intervention that is required to ensure safe passage. Everyone will have to apply and they understand that there will be a degree of due diligence before any money is given to any clubs.

Q: The statement says we expect funds to be available to the clubs in need in the coming days, could you comment on that? Also, in terms of criteria, clubs will need to ensure they have exhausted all other government schemes and private finance routes available, we don’t have that many rich owners in rugby league, but there are a few, how will this apply to them?

Rimmer: It won’t be a straight line. Some clubs have an ability to access other funds and many have benefited from interventions already in place and we’ve been in contact with them to calculate what those advantages are.

These have all been submitted to the government already so they understand exactly how each of the clubs have taken advantage of what’s on offer and where the gaps are in terms of funding.

I can also confirm the funds will be available in the coming days.

Q: You said this money fits into the time frame of how we can get back on the field; do you currently have a plan in terms of a return to play at all and how soon do you envisage a return being plausible?

Rimmer: We’ve been at the heart of discussions with the government, alongside the big sports, about how we reemerge. Behind closed doors is an option, but it won’t suit every club as a lot rely on ticket revenue, so the period of lockdown, which the government will determine, will determine which model we take going forward.

We are a high contact collision sport, so all of those details are currently been worked out centrally at this point in time, but we’re obviously desperate to get back out on the field as soon as possible.

It’s really important that we pick the model that fits and we make sure we have some blue ribbon events, with our major finals, but player welfare is one of the most important things. We can’t have scenarios where players are playing multiple times a week just to get a certain number of games in with any real substance.

Q: What reassurances have you been given by Sky in terms of money they’ve paid for content they’re not getting and, if you go behind closed doors, where are you with televising those games and streaming them to make them available to more fans?

Rimmer: I spoke to Sky earlier in the week and they’ve been tremendously supportive throughout this. On the modelling aspects, we’ve discussed with them and Super League innovative ways to deliver the content they are looking for.

Sky have been at the heart of helping shape how we go forward, as have the BBC who are also very important partners and we need to give them proper respect.

It does depend on the length of lockdown, but the possibility of playing multiple games at single venues is certainly an option for how we initially reemerge.

Q: With the World Cup coming up next year, how important was that in getting the loan?

Rimmer: It was very very important. The important things in this journey that we’ve been on is the work that goes on in the communities, how they benefit people from a physical and mental perspective and give a community a sense of pride and worth.

In addition to that, the link to the World Cup is a clear one and as we reemerge out of this, the uplift in the nation’s psych will no doubt be enhanced by high level sporting competition in this country and the World Cup is a really prestigious event which lands 18 months from now, so it landed perfectly.

Q: Is the loan interest free and how much will the RFL need to preserve its own future?

Rimmer: As I’ve said, I won’t go into the terms of the loan, but the government have been very supportive.

In relation to the RFL, all the blue ribbon events have yet to be played and the RFL would have generated some revenue from the Challenge Cup Final and the Ashes Series, so we’ll have to see how the season pans out.

Hopefully those events still all take place, but nevertheless, we have some comfort if there is any disruption to them. Again, I can’t thank the government enough for their engagement at every level, it’s a real pat on the back for our rugby league family.

Q: Where do the Ashes currently stand at the moment?

Rimmer: They are still scheduled for the end of the year, but I’d be naive to suggest there isn’t some threat to them. I spoke to my colleagues in the NRL yesterday and they are under a lot of pressure themselves so nothing is nailed down at this point, but there is a threat to the series.

We have to make sure the game survives globally and the solution at the end of this will not be a perfect one, it’s not possible to satisfy everybody, but everybody has to come to the table in order to make it work.

In the end we’re surrounded by a world that is under extreme stress, which is why everyone has to work together which will help us move forward into 2021.

Leave a Comment