Rugby league has secured a £16million cash injection from the Government that secures its short-term future.
The sport had appealed to Parliament for help, citing the significant role it plays in its local communities.
The Government has agreed with that stance, confirming an emergency loan that will now be distributed around the sport and its clubs.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden said: “This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of rugby league. We recognise that many RFL clubs operate on very tight financial margins.
“Without their ability to stage matches with spectators and despite the Government’s extensive economic package, the professional game has come very close to collapsing.
“From my first sports visit as Secretary of State to Leigh Centurions, I could see how important these clubs are to the communities they serve.
“They are the beating heart of their towns and cities, and their impact goes far beyond what happens on the pitch.
“Sports across the board are facing unprecedented pressures, and we are supporting them through wider Government measures.
“In this case we are intervening as an exception, not to save an individual business or organisation, but to protect an entire sport, the community it supports, the World Cup held here next year and its legacy for generations to come.”
The Government cited a number of community initiatives by clubs from the amateur game through to Super League during the coronavirus pandemic as reason for the move.
The RFL will now administer the funding, in partnership with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
All Super League, Championship and League One clubs based in England are eligible to apply, with further details on when the fund will open and how clubs can apply announced by the RFL in due course.
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “The RFL is grateful to the Government for understanding and acting on the case for the whole sport.
“In these very tough times for the country and huge demands on Government, this is confirmation of why rugby league is important – our unique selling point – the sport’s significant social impact in northern communities in particular.
“Rugby league is not a wealthy sport but is rich in the things that matter most – outstanding
sporting and life chances in often disadvantaged communities.
“The effects of lockdown at the start of our season genuinely threatened the survival of our clubs at all levels and their ability to continue delivering those positive social and economic impacts.
“This support enables the sport to survive, to reshape and to be ready to restart in this our 125th year. And to look to a home World Cup next year and a legacy for our communities.
“Watching and playing sport together, including rugby league, has a role to play in the nation’s recovery. We are part of that national sporting landscape.
“In the meantime, we continue to work at the heart of our communities, helping wherever we can.”
Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, added: “Rugby league is a sport that makes a significant social impact in the communities it serves, which is even more important now as we respond to the economic pressures resulting from Covid-19.
“The timing of the Rugby League World Cup next year will also be a fantastic opportunity to build on the sport’s strong track record within these communities, and is an opportunity that this Government’s support will ensure is delivered.”
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