Gallagher Premiership clubs are fearing financial catastrophe if the spread of the coronavirus outbreak results in matches being cancelled or played behind closed doors.
Due to the World Cup in Japan, the English league season has completed only 13 of its 22 regulation season rounds of fixtures and club administrators are reportedly concerned about the financial fallout if there is a change to current UK government advice that sporting events can continue as normal.
Already, three Guinness Six Nations matches – including England’s March 14 game away to Italy – and even more Guinness PRO14 fixtures have fallen by the wayside in other countries due to fears about the spread of the virus.
It has left the financially stricken Premiership clubs – only Exeter Chiefs reported a profit in the last set of accounts – worried that a loss of projected matchday revenue could cripple revenues.
In an interview with the Telegraph, an unidentified club chief executive claimed: “The armageddon scenario is that you lose the rest of your matches.
“Matchdays are a huge part of your profitability and if we lost our home games, it is pretty much a disaster. I imagine for most clubs – depending on the scale of your audience – if you lose four or five home matches that is likely to be a hit between £800,000 to £2million.
“Rugby clubs, in general, are loss-making and as a result are having to manage cash-flow quite closely. So losing games has potentially really huge ramifications. It would create significant additional pressure at some clubs who are already struggling.”
Gloucester chief executive Lance Bradley revealed that matchdays generate between 25 to 30 per cent of their annual income and while any potential loss would be disastrous, people’s health was the priority. “Looking after people’s health is the No1 priority so if that’s the direction we are told to go in then that’s the way we will head.”
Amid confusion as to whether Premiership clubs would be covered by insurance if their matches are affected by the coronavirus measures, Gloucester hope their policy with tournament sponsors Gallagher will be sufficient. “If there is any company who would want to help us as much as they can it would be Gallagher,” suggested Bradley. “It’s an ongoing discussion.”
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