Welsh Rugby Union seek loan to cope with virus crisis


London (AFP)

The Welsh Rugby Union said Wednesday they were seeking to secure a loan that would keep the professional game alive in Wales amid the "financial shock" of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all major sport, but while southern hemisphere rugby union has resumed, there is no certainty as to when the four Welsh regions will be back in action again, although August 22 has been pencilled in as a possible restart date for the Pro14 in which they all compete.

"Given the financial shock of this pandemic the only solution is to increase our borrowing," said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips in an open letter.

"We are working hard to secure a loan and, importantly, on terms that allows for repayment over a number of years.

"So, whilst the current financial hit is extreme and focused, we will look to smooth and dampen its ongoing impact through a manageable repayment profile and interest rate.

"The professional game will bear the responsibility for servicing the loan, but will also benefit from any bounce back of any financial revenue over performance in future years. Meaning, in that regard, the professional game bears both the risk and the reward.

"Our goal, like with our semi-professional and community clubs, is to ensure all four regions survive this crisis."

Meanwhile Phillips warned the temporary 25 percent cut to players' wages agreed early in lockdown could become a permanent measure.

"Back in April the players agreed to temporary wage cuts to help us through the crisis, again for which we are grateful," he said.

"We are now in further discussion, the first step of which is a responsibility of the PRB (Professional Rugby Board) to, as transparently as possible, set out the financial situation and then work together with the players to find options that both safeguard the game and also deliver to the players' personal situations.

"There is a requirement for continued dialogue over the next few weeks to explore options and land on a way forward that works for all parties. I'm sure we can achieve this together."

Last week, WRU chairman Gareth Davies warned he impact of the pandemic on the sport would be "catastrophic".

The WRU had previously forecast a loss of £50 million ($63 million, 56 million euros) if there is no more international rugby this year, with the Cardiff Blues anticipating a £4-£6 million reduction in revenue.