'Worried' billionaire-backed Stade Francais to cut budget by 20%

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The French Top 14's wealthiest side Stade Francais is cutting its budget by up to 20% due to the "worrying" coronavirus pandemic, the club's general manager Thomas Lombard said on Wednesday.

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The Parisian outfit, who won the last of their 14 league titles in 2015, had an expenditure of €40 million ($43 million) last season.

Lombard said they had lost ticket sales and sponsorship income after the campaign was declared over and has worries about restarting the new season in empty stadiums.

"The situation is worrying. We were unable to play all of our home games. The club, like the rest of the Top 14 has been extremely impacted," Lombard told AFP.

"The worst thing would be to play behind closed doors. Because it cuts pretty much the whole of our income. We'll have television rights money but it doesn't play that big of a role in our budget," he added.

The side, who were bottom of the table when the term was declared over in April, are backed by billionaire Hans-Peter Wild but Lombard said they need to depend less on the Swiss businessman who made his fortune from soft drinks.

"From the moment when all the efforts come from the same person it can limit things. He's already signed a number of cheques," Lombard said.

"When you're Stade France, with our notoriety, our image, we have to do better when it comes to partners and sponsors," he added.

Fellow French sides in Toulon and Castres have announced salary cuts for their players.

Lombard said the likes of Argentina pair Nicolas Sanchez and Pablo Matera as well as Australia's Tolu Latu and Sefa Naivalu are in talks to follow suit.

"The players are perfectly in tune with the club's situation. We explained the situation to them, there is a desire to participate in the effort. We're not going to rush them."

Lombard said plans to sign new squad members have been frozen despite losing the likes of Australian loose forward Hugh Pyle.

"We're losing five players, we have to offset that. Transfers, recruitment are pretty much at a stop, when normally it's all finished by now. We're not in absolute emergency, but we need clarity on things."

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