Uncertainty shrouds the future of a number of Gallagher Premiership clubs after new restrictions preventing fans from attending matches for up to six months were implemented by the Government.
In a sport where in-fighting is customary, owners, chairmen and chief executives have united in outlining the nature of the crisis they face in the absence of critical revenue generated by home crowds.
Many predict that clubs will fold without financial assistance from the state, while English professional rugby could be forced to restructure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here the Livesportcentre examines the outlook for all 13 Premiership stakeholders.
🏉 – @ExeterChiefs DoR Rob Baxter offers a positive outlook for future of the club, despite latest Covid outbreaks and lack of fans inside @SandyParkExeter ⬇️https://t.co/XVYxgYrH0Q pic.twitter.com/KYxm2ZQxQp
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) September 24, 2020
While vulnerable to the impact of Covid-19, the Chiefs are the only member of the top flight not to operate at a loss. Devonian businessman Tony Rowe runs a tight ship and the club expect their strong financial foundations to see them through the storm.
Bruce Craig has already dipped into his personal fortune to bankroll Bath since taking control at the Recreation Ground 10 years ago and, with the former giants now challenging for the title once more, his interest will be as strong as ever.
💬 🙌🏽 Wise words from the boss pic.twitter.com/xqVe8Nv6yN
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) September 24, 2020
Chief executive Stephen Vaughan insists Wasps will lose £500,000 a month as a result of the new restrictions. The club is already mired in debt and is propped up by owner Derek Richardson, who is owed £18.3million and may have to dig deeper still.
Co-owner Simon Orange revealed that clubs are losing £1million per month and even pre-coronavirus held the view that they are not sustainable businesses, but his investment company CorpAcq should have the capital to combat the crisis if no bailout is forthcoming.
Billionaire owner Stephen Lansdown will ensure the Bears emerge intact from the choppy waters ahead, but the pandemic has halted their recent success in growing their supporter base.
A well run and well supported club that recently staged a successful test event that saw 2,700 fans attend Twickenham Stoop, Quins may nevertheless be forced to call on the riches of co-owner Duncan Saville when the cash runs out.
Chairman John White is confident Saints will “weather this challenge in the near-term”, but has called for the Government to supply financial aid and has said Northampton are exploring ways for the return of fans to be accelerated. If the situation becomes dire, long-standing benefactor Keith Barwell would surely step in.
Chief executive Lance Bradley insists Gloucester will go out of business without crowds for six months and has urged the Government to provide financial aid to mitigate against losses forecast to be £6.2million.
Owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham have stated that the Warriors are facing a battle for survival that will be lost if supporters are not allowed to attend for six months, forcing them to call for financial aid.
Tough news for sports this week and the Govt will support them through this, but the work to return fans won’t stop
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) September 24, 2020
The Exiles have been bankrolled by Mick Crossan since 2013 with the 2018-19 season alone costing him £4million. In April he declared it is a level of financial support he cannot afford and the ongoing absence of fans will only demand more funding.
Welford Road’s 25,849 capacity is an enormous asset in less troubled times, but chairman Peter Tom has revealed that one of the board’s two aims is to ensure Leicester’s survival. Pumping the club’s CVC money back into the business was a shrewd move.
An uncertain future awaits the fallen champions, who are waiting to learn when their season in the Championship begins. Nigel Wray stepped down as chairman in the wake of the salary cap scandal, but the millionaire owner continues to support the club.
Semore Kurdi has stabilised the Falcons’ finances since taking control in 2011, but with virtually no income coming in since February and cuts of at least 25 per cent already undertaken by most staff and players, the outlook for one of the Premiership’s smaller stakeholders is bleak.