11 sports to share £300 million coronavirus rescue package

19 November 2020, 08:38 | Updated: 19 November 2020, 12:20

A general view of Twickenham Stadium
A general view of Twickenham Stadium. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Eleven sports will receive a combined £300million in Government funding to assist with hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced.

Rugby union will receive the biggest single amount - £135m. Of that, £44m will go to the Rugby Football Union, £59m to Premiership Rugby clubs, £9m to clubs in the Championship and £23m to clubs below the Championship.

Horse racing will receive £40million to support racecourses unable to welcome visitors.

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The Government has repeatedly said professional men's football is wealthy enough to support itself through the crisis, hence its exclusion, but the EFL - whose clubs have been badly hit by the loss of matchday revenue - is yet to agree terms of a bail-out with the Premier League.

Football as a whole will not completely miss out on state funding, however, with Football's National League at steps one and two - which has already benefited from £10m in National Lottery funding to assist through to the end of 2020 - receiving a further £11m to cover the period between January and the end of March.

Steps three to six of the pyramid will receive £14m, while the Women's Super League and Championship have been awarded £3m.

Elite football - the Premier League and English Football League - missed out along with cricket.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston made the announcement in the House of Commons on Thursday.

Much of the professional sports sector has been left in a parlous state by the pandemic with spectators not permitted at events since action resumed post-lockdown.

There had been hope of a limited return of crowds from October but those plans were scrapped, despite some successful pilot events, due to a rise in Covid-19 infections.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday his Government was working to get fans back into venues but, despite reports of a Christmas target date, was unable to offer a timeframe.

"I understand the frustration over fans and we hope to get crowds back in the ground as soon as possible," he said.

Premier League football has coped relatively well due to its lucrative domestic and overseas TV deals and there is a feeling within Government it should support the lower divisions.

Negotiations between the Premier League and EFL to find a solution have been difficult but remain ongoing.

Last week the EFL said a "significant step forward" had been taken with regards to an outlined £50m package of grants and loans for League One and Two clubs yet there is still no formal agreement.

Asked about the issue during Prime Minister's Questions, Johnson said: "We don't want any football team to go out of business as a result of this pandemic and we're doing everything we can."