Premiership Rugby plan for fans' return amid 59m aid boost

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Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said Thursday he was optimistic fans could return before the end of the 2020/21 season after rugby union received the lion's share of a £300 million ($396 million) British government rescue package for sports hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 15-a-side code is set for a £135 million pay-out, mainly in the form of loans, with £59 million going to the 12-team Premiership and £44 million to England's governing Rugby Football Union, with the remainder split between lower-league clubs.

Thursday's aid package, which covers 11 disciplines in total, has been launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with many UK sports suffering a huge drop in income because of the absence of fans from grounds due to the virus.

Childs said the package was based on lost ticket revenue and would cover the period from October to the end of March.

The 2020/21 Premiership season starts on Friday, with Exeter defending the title having also been crowned champions of Europe last term.

"It's not for the entire season, it's for a portion of the season," Childs said of the cash boost.

"If we are unable to get fans in in April we are hoping that will continue and there will be another award."

"Both us and the government are starting to feel more confident that there may be a solution that would allow the safe return of fans that have tested negative for Covid to get back into stadiums quicker."

Some critics alleged class and geographical bias in the distribution of the aid package, but sports minister Nigel Huddleston, a member of the UK's ruling Conservative Party said: "The money is based on the need of clubs to make sure they survive, so it is not a north-south divide, Tory (Conservative) vs Labour area, you will see the money is being spread fairly well across the country."

England's Football League missed out but Huddleston said comparisons with rugby were unjust as he called on the wealthy Premier League to help EFL clubs lower down the chain.

"Who else is coming in to save the RFU?" said Huddleston.

"To be able to support others, there is no alternative option other than government to come in, whereas in the EFL, there is the alternative option of Premier League funding."

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