THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT is to give £15 million in grants and £5m in low-interest loans to Scottish Rugby as part of a £55m emergency sports funding package to tackle lost ticket revenue during the Covid pandemic. Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson hailed the package as “a massive boost”, while president Ian Barr said that clubs throughout the country were sure to welcome the financial support.
The biggest single amount from the scheme will go to Scottish football – a total of £30m at all levels of the game, with £20m loan funding for the Premiership and £10m in grants for all other levels outwith the top flight. Basketball (£330k in grants), netball (£100k in grants), motor sport (£400k in grants), horse racing (£2m in grants) and ice hockey/ice rinks (£2.2m total in grants) will also receive support. The package follows a similar funding arrangement in England, although the Scottish Government said it was worth more in total than the sum they had received from the UK exchequer for the purpose via the Barnett Formula.
“This has been a hugely difficult time at every level of our game in Scotland since the public lockdown began in March,” Dodson said in a press release from Murrayfield. “Our main income sources effectively dried up at an international and professional level, which in turn impacted on our ability to provide the revenues we need to invest in the community game going forward.
“We have had to make difficult decisions to look at how we can keep rugby financially afloat as we move into 2021. The funding package today is therefore a massive boost to our sport at a critical time and I’d like to thank the Scottish Government for its generous and timely support which will underwrite rugby in the months and years ahead.”
Barr added: “Today’s news will be welcomed by every club in Scotland as it provides vital financial support at a time when rugby in local communities cannot be played competitively and everyone is missing the benefits it brings. Our clubs have been fantastic through the pandemic and continue to support their local communities at this difficult time. To have the funding package from the Scottish Government announced today means we can move into 2021 with more optimism and confidence that our sport can work through this challenging period.”
Scottish Rugby’s chief operating officer Dominic McKay has done much of the hands-on liaising with the Scottish Government on a variety of issues throughout the pandemic period, and he too was delighted by the funding news. “From the outset of the pandemic we have worked closely with Scottish Government to both support and promote its public health messaging on Covid-19 and also to ensure the voice of rugby was heard and its benefits to health and communities represented,” he said.
“The impact of no crowds on our revenues has been significant and while we were proud to host the first pilot event at BT Murrayfield back in August the speed of progress to welcome back fans puts ongoing pressure on our ability to function as a governing body, supporting all levels of the game. Today’s funding package of £20m is therefore fantastic news for everyone connected to rugby in Scotland and enables us to plan and move forward with more confidence. I’d like to thank Minister for Sport Joe FitzPatrick, the First Minister and colleagues across Government for this financial lifeline and look forward to us continuing to work together.”
The sports funding was announced in a statement from the Scottish Government at lunchtime today (Thursday). It said: “The package comes in addition to Sports Scotland’s £1.5m Covid Recovery Support Fund. In partnership with the Scottish Government, the agency also loosened the criteria for its £32m planned annual investment for the sports sector during the pandemic, allowing sports organisations to protect 1,600 jobs.”
FitzPatrick added: “I am pleased to announce this substantial funding package, which will help to ensure those sports which have been worst affected by the loss of ticket revenue during the pandemic are able to bridge the gap in revenue until spectators are able to return safely to sports events in larger numbers.
“While restrictions on supporters at events have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives, there can be no doubt that they have created real hardships for many sports clubs. These clubs are at the heart of our communities and, without urgent financial support, the survival of some could be in question. I’m delighted that we are able to provide significantly more support than the Barnett consequential funding received from the UK Government Sports Winter Survival package.
“I recognise that for football in particular, governing bodies, clubs and, of course, supporters themselves are desperate to see fans back as soon as possible. Sport brings great enjoyment to the many people who watch and play, and we don’t want supporters to be delayed in returning to stadiums for any longer than is absolutely necessary.”
Sport Scotland chief executive Stewart Harris added: “This announcement is very welcome as the funding will help protect the immediate future of many clubs over the coming months.
“We will continue to work with a range of Scottish governing bodies of sport and the Scottish Government to prioritise this funding to ensure the survival of the sports at the heart of our communities. With the roll-out of the vaccine this week there is real hope that we are beginning to see our way out of this pandemic, and we need to make certain that sport is in a good place and is a prominent part of the overall recovery plan.”