Harlequins chief executive Laurie Dalrymple wants to accelerate the safe return of Premiership fans to alleviate the financial turmoil that has engulfed the English top flight. The club is targeting their women’s Allianz Premier 15s fixture against London rivals Saracens on December 12 as the first opportunity to host supporters at The Stoop after the capital was placed into tier two when the current lockdown ends, enabling crowds of up to 2,000.
Quins’ turnover for the 2020/21 season has been revised downwards from £25million to £8.5/£9m due to 75 per cent of turnover being generated by matchday engagement with supporters, including season ticket sales.
While welcoming spectators back, Dalrymple insists the numbers need to increase as quickly as possible to address a bleak outlook that has been helped by £59m being made available to the Gallagher Premiership in the form of loans and grants from the Government.
“This is a really positive step and the sooner we can prove it’s a safe environment, the faster we can escalate up to 4,000 and upwards after that,” said Dalrymple after the way was cleared for Harlequins to welcome fans of the Premiership club. “We need to contribute to proving there is a clear pathway to normality, but we have been in this long enough now to know nothing is guaranteed.
“We’re on our sixth or seventh budget iteration since Covid began and that reflects how the landscape can change. Two weeks ago we were building a plan around fans returning in April and yet within a fortnight we are planning to have spectators in the ground.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 26, 2020
“It’s a big step forward, but it can’t disguise the fact that on a financial level it doesn’t stack up. We have real financial pressures and there are some clubs who are under significant pressure.” Harlequins are bankrolled by owners Duncan Saville and Charles Jillings, removing the threat of folding as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – a doomsday scenario potentially facing some of their rivals.
But the state-provided aid being distributed by Sport England has still been critical. “We’re still working through the details of the package. The principle of it is positive because it’s a potential lifeline for us. Having some degree of security is reassuring,” Dalrymple said.
“The mechanics of it we’re yet to fully understand, but it could be the difference between many clubs coming through this. We’ll have to manage future costs because the chances are we’ll have some form of financial loan to pay off. If it’s the difference between survival and excitation for many, then we’d know which one we’d rather choose.”
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'Next year, many women's rugby players will use their entire year’s annual leave allowance to play in the Rugby World Cup.'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 27, 2020
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