RFU planning redundancies amid COVID-19

Bill Sweeney, chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), has revealed that the organisation has proposed as many as 139 job cuts as it continues to feel the financial impact of COVID-19.

In a statement posted on the RFU website, Sweeney said that the body’s detailed scenario modelling shows there may be a short-term impact of £107m (€119m/$134m) in lost revenues and acknowledged that there would be a much longer-term effect.

The RFU is projecting a four- to five-year recovery period with cumulative reductions of around 20 per cent. Sweeney pointed to the RFU’s reliance on match and event revenue at Twickenham Stadium as one of the main challenges the body has faced in recent months.

Sweeney said: “We are having to make difficult decisions on what we can continue to invest in as well as what is the right size and shape of our business for the future.

“To ensure we have a sustainable RFU we have announced to colleagues that it is proposed that the total number of roles across the organisation will reduce by 139. This will be a difficult process, but we will be consulting with colleagues in a fair way to completely remodel our business.”

The RFU will focus on supporting the community game and its member clubs, maintaining its ability to “compete and win in the performance arena”, and delivering on its purpose of enriching lives, introducing more people and more diversity to the sport.

Sweeney said that a consultation process will begin with employees, allowing them to share their views on re-shaping the business ahead of any decisions being announced at the end of August.

Sweeney added: “We have already made some significant cost savings. We furloughed 60% of our organisation; implemented a three-month pay reduction which has been extended for some; introduced pension pauses; and refined business planning and introduced stadium and office running efficiencies to reduce costs.

“Unfortunately, this is not enough to run a sustainable operation and safeguard our future. We need to maintain our organisation for the long term, this is not a short-term cost reduction exercise, the RFU will still stand, but the impact of COVID-19 will continue to affect us for many years to come.”

The England national team is due to play against New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia at Twickenham on consecutive weekends in November, and the RFU is hopeful that a limited number of fans will be able to attend.

In other news, the organising committee for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has announced redundancies of its own.

In a statement reported by the Associated Press news agency, Qatar 2022 said: “The (organising committee) has recently undertaken an internal exercise to assess the current workforce and engaged in a budget management and operational efficiency exercise as part of this transition.

“As a result, we have taken the decision to make a number of positions redundant. All due salary and end of service benefits will be paid to those leaving, in line with Qatari labour laws.”

Three of Qatar’s eight World Cup stadiums have been completed, with the Education City Stadium having been inaugurated last month.

Image: Maxwell Hamilton