Bath Rugby – and other Premiership clubs – are losing between £750,000 and £1m per month, through lack of crowd receipts – according to the city’s MP Wera Hobhouse.
She’s written to Oliver Dowden – the Culture Secretary – asking for further financial support for the clubs.
Today’s letter follows on from last month, when Bath’s MP asked the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees Mog in Parliament, to support grassroots sports – specifically advocating on behalf of Bath City Football Club.
Wera Hobhouse said:
“As we go into another lockdown, we must look to our recovery. Bath is a city made so much richer by our excellent sports clubs. Bath Rugby have proved they can safely admit fans. Allowing theatres to have spectators but not allowing sports matches to have the same is both inconsistent and weakens peoples inclination to listen to Government.
If the Government continues its ban on fans after the 2nd of December, when this most recent lockdown will finish, then it must provide meaningful support to the game. We must not put clubs in the position where they are unable to plot a course through this crisis. For cities such as Bath that would be a disaster.
“Our big venues and clubs do so much for our city, yet the pandemic restrictions have meant that they have been starved of cash, whilst the cost of doing anything safely has gone up.
“On Thursday I am hosting a public meeting with Bath Rugby, Bath City FC, Bath Racecourse and Team Bath. Details of how to join in are on my website. We will be looking at how Covid 19 has affected all of our sporting venues and clubs, and assessing what this latest lockdown announcement will mean for the sports clubs we know and love.”
Wera’s letter to Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State, DCMS, in full:
Dear Secretary of State
I know that the Premiership Rugby clubs have been in direct discussion, via Premiership Rugby as the central league body, with DCMS regarding financial support for rugby. I understand that each of the Premiership clubs has provided detailed and comprehensive information in terms of club finances along with the significant socio-economic benefits we bring to our cities and regions.
I am writing to you to ask that you look to provide support that is sufficient and appropriate to ensure the viability and sustainability of the clubs – and the sport – through covid-19 and specifically an extended period where no attendance is permitted at matches.
The government announced on 22nd September that crowds for live sporting events may not return until the end of March 2021. This was a catastrophic blow for rugby which – like so many sectors – was already reeling from the impacts of Covid-19. The challenge for rugby is that the sport is heavily dependent on crowds to generate income and to maintain viability.
In my constituency, Bath Rugby generates approximately two-thirds of its income from attendances at games: season and match ticket income, hospitality, food and beverage, RFU income from games staged at Twickenham. The Premiership Rugby clubs, including Bath Rugby, are losing c. £750,000 to £1,000,000 per month whilst we are unable to generate income from crowds.
This comes at a time when the needs of our communities are at their greatest, and the role that sport can play has never been more important.
Other sectors have been able to generate income from attendance by socially distanced customers and spectators, including live indoor music events, theatre events e.g. the Palladium, in- and out-door theme parks and attractions. Separately the government has provided significant support to the Arts sector, where attendances were not permitted although this has latterly been possible with some restrictions. Rugby is heavily dependent on crowds for the viability of the sport and yet there is no prospect of crowds returning soon, nor has there been any support for rugby so far.
Rugby clubs have proven that they can deliver games in front of safely managed socially distanced crowds, and this provides a ‘no cost’ form of support from government. If government deems that crowds cannot return, I would ask that government support is made available otherwise the viability and sustainability of rugby clubs and ultimately the sport will be in question.
The Premiership rugby clubs each make a significant contribution to their local communities. In terms of Bath Rugby:
- In terms of direct economic impact in Bath:
- £20m pa benefit to the local economy from match day spectators
- 145 additional FTE jobs in the City
- £1.5m to local suppliers
- In terms of wider social impact this is delivered through three main channels:
- Community outreach:
i. Sporting participation and health/well-being
ii. Girls sport to drive focus addressing low participation
iii. Education using sport to promote education attainment
iv. Overall 6,000+ children physically engaged across our region (Dorset, Somerset, Wilts throughout the year); 3,000 additional children given access to match day.
- Bath Rugby Foundation:
i. High impact programmes working with disadvantaged young people in local area to drive outcomes in health, well-being, inclusion and education
ii. Overall 3,000 disadvantaged young people involved annually in programmes across B&NES and the wider area. Bath Life Charity Award 2018 and 2019 and Hitz Awards for 2017, 2018 and 2019
i. Participation in elite sport and driving future talent
- 150 young people involved annually across state and private schools with an approach which has been commended by the RFU and PRL.
What has become clear in the conversations I’ve had, it that there is a very real risk to the future of the Premiership clubs and the sport if crowds cannot return and if there is not a support package for rugby. I hope that you will give this matter your fullest attention.
Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath