This weekend has seen the crowning moment of the rugby season with the Six Nation’s contest. Millions of people throughout the UK, Ireland, Italy and France have followed the game.
Tens of millions of pounds rolls in from punters, sponsors every year to finance the game and promote the sport. So perhaps you might be rather surprised to learn in this age of austerity and government spending cuts that this year for the first time taxpayers have started to fund the top end of the game to the tune of £600,000 over the next two years.
The funding body is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Details are in this press release. It sounds very laudable.-the money is going to fund more participation by women and ethnic minorities.and disabled in the sport. It should also improve disabled access to the game.
They will include plans to “recruit 480 female teachers and volunteers and 156 schools to the Sports Inclusion Programme, run 156 five week rugby training programmes for girls and 104 five week sessions for children from ethnic minority backgrounds.”
However one might well ask in an age when public spending cuts are de reguer and the disabled, in particular, have suffered huge cuts from the “bedroom tax ” to the impending demise of the disability living fund, why rugby premier league should get new funding from the taxpayer. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has seen its budget slashed to pieces as well.
If you go to the Premiership Rugby site you will find it is not short of sponsorship.. As well as Aviva insurance funding the Premier League BT Sports have just signed a lucrative sponsorship deal, And it doesn’t stop there, other funding comes Land Rover, Guinness, Green Flag and premium Thai lager, Singha, to name a few.
Also if you check Premier League Rugby’s latest accounts for 2013- 2014 you will find they distributed over £41m to the 12 top clubs..It made a gross profit of over £4m before other expenses. And its top staff don’t seem to be badly paid. It employs just 23 people but they share £1.975m in wages between them plus another nearly £300,000 in pension and national insurance contributions.
When I prepared an article for Tribune a spokesman for Premiership Rugby told me that they weren’t a rich organisation and only four out of the 12 top Premier League clubs were in the black and the rest desperately needed the money. Certainly compared with Premier League football they are not rich but my nephews and my rugby mad relations tell me that at big games you don’t find many sponsorship tables empty. Perhaps then Gloucester, Saracens and London Welsh are in deep trouble but it doesn’t look like to me ( the one Gloucester game I went to seemed pretty full).
My point is that while I applaud the aims of this extra cash – i don’t really see why the taxpayer should foot the bill. It should not be difficult to get another sponsor to do it.
And it is about to get worse . Another £1.3m of taxpayer’s cash is about to go from the EHRC to the poverty stricken Premier League football and the England and Wales Cricket Board. All this is approved by the board of the EHRC but even Lord Holmes, the disability commissioner seems to have some doubts as shown in this blog.