World Rugby has announced details of a dedicated COVID-19 relief strategy aimed at supporting the global game and mitigating the overall impact of the pandemic on the sport.
Underpinned by a relief fund of approximately US$100 million to assist unions through to the resumption of the sport, the strategy reflects World Rugby’s commitment to leading the sport through its greatest challenge and is a result of cross-game collaboration that has enabled key decisions to be taken in the spirit of solidarity and partnership.
The relief fund will be available for unions requiring immediate emergency funding subject to appropriate criteria being met. It is designed to assist the maximum number of unions for the maximum amount of time while there is a rugby void.
For 6 Nations and SANZAAR unions, the financial package will potentially involve a combination of advances and loans, while World Rugby is also committed to supporting emerging nations and regional associations where required.
2020 international calendar progress
In tandem with an extensive financial assessment, World Rugby, in full partnership with 6 Nations, SANZAAR, unions (in consultation with their leagues) and International Rugby Players, continues to progress a variety of return-to-rugby plans, including the delivery of a viable 2020 international competition calendar subject to the relevant government and health authority advice.
This includes likely short-term reshaping of the international rugby calendar, optimising competition opportunities for unions and domestic leagues. As a prudent precaution, further scenario planning factors in a competition environment where cross-hemisphere travel might not be possible and, in the worst-case scenario, where no international rugby is possible this year.
While initially a response to an unprecedented crisis, the modelling work achieved potentially provides direction for long-term reform of the rugby calendar.
Central to the contingency planning is player welfare and all potential scenarios have involved International Rugby Players input and recognise the need for adequate player preparation and rest.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Global sport is facing a crisis never seen before and at this most challenging time we are taking unprecedented action as a sport united to support global rugby, its unions, competitions and players through the enormous challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The measures announced today will provide support and short-term relief in the form of a US$100 million relief fund, while we are committed to exploring calendar options that reflect and address a dynamic, complex and uncertain environment.
“I have chaired many productive meetings in recent weeks with my union, region, competition and player colleagues and we are rapidly moving towards a viable calendar solution and, while compromises are being made, the outcome will be in the best interests of the whole game.
“This is a process with solidarity, unity and leadership at heart – one that sets a potential blueprint for successful collaboration in the future and I would like to thank everyone for their openness, cooperation and global view.”