Should you, the taxpayer subsidise premier league rugby on top of commercial sponsors?

 Aviva Rugby premiership clubs - in need of taxpayer subsidy?  Image credit: BBC

Aviva Rugby premiership clubs – in need of taxpayer subsidy?
Image credit: BBC

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.

4 thoughts on “Should you, the taxpayer subsidise premier league rugby on top of commercial sponsors?

  1. David! Shame on you!

    Grassroots rugby needs all the help it can get, as does women’s grassroots rugby! Our local rugby club Matlock Rugby is simply great and is one of the biggest opportunities for local kids of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in sport. Hundreds of kids get great enjoyment from volunteer coaches, backed by all the parents. My 15 year old daughter trains every week for Amber Vally rugby, which has only just managed to get its own kit!

    You’ve known me for years and you know I’m no fan of elitism in any form – grassroots rugby is not that – it’s the opposite! I’m actually really chuffed to hear its getting some of my taxes!


    • Hi Joe,

      I would not object at all if the money was going to grassroots rugby but it isn’t. It is going to the 12 clubs in the Premier Rugby League and not to the smaller clubs where I thought it would have more impact. The argument given to me by the EHRC is that the Premier League clubs are the best people to handle this cash. I don’t agree as they seem to get a lot of sponsorship which I bet is much more difficult to get in Amber Valley.


  2. I am confused by this article David which makes reference to Rugby Union clubs which is also talking about Rugby League. You can watch Rugby League Internationals and Club games for coppers compared to what is charged for Union International at Twickenham and they are charging more for the World Cup than I pay for a good seat at tthe Royal Opera House


    • Rugby is a bit confusing. But no this is definitely money given by EHRC to the 12 Premier Rugby clubs in the Aviva Premier League not the union. It does directly to a commercial company set up to distribute cash to these 12 clubs.


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