The Welsh government has announced a £17.7m (€19.9m/$24.2m) funding package to help spectator sports severely impacted by the pandemic, with rugby union to benefit the most after being granted £13.5m.

Football has been granted £1.5m, while horse racing and cricket will receive £1.2m and £1m, respectively. Elsewhere, ice hockey and rugby league have each been granted £200,000, with netball to be awarded £100,000.

The funding package is designed to provide these sports with immediate financial support for the remainder of the winter period, ensuring they will be ready for the start of the new season in September.

The Welsh government will directly allocate the funding package to the respective national governing bodies. It is hoped the funding will ensure the short- to medium-term survival of sports organisations and clubs.

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “While restrictions on supporters at events have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives, there can be no doubt that they have created real hardships for many sports clubs, many of whom receive a significant proportion of their income through spectator attendance.

“Sport is an important sector of our economy and has a positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. Sporting events provide important shared experiences, have often been a welcome distraction during the pandemic and will be a vital player in our recovery and healing after the crisis.

“I know this money will provide some stability to those sports worst affected by the loss of revenue during the pandemic, helping to bridge the financial gap until spectators are able to return safely.”

The funding package has been announced after the Welsh government launched an £8m Sport Resilience Fund last April alongside Sport Wales. The fund was used to support sports clubs and partner networks.

A further £14m funding package was announced for the sport and leisure sector in September to support clubs and organisations, independent providers and sporting events affected by the pandemic.

Following the announcement of the latest funding package, Wales’ Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “We’re committed to providing a responsible and targeted approach to addressing the financial impact of the pandemic.

“The package of support we have announced today takes the total funding for this sector to more than £40m since the start of the crisis, helping to provide longer-term stability for a sector that has suffered significant financial loss.

“As we look ahead to brighter days, sport and physical activity will be vital players in our recovery, helping to develop a healthier and more resilient Wales.”

The funding has been announced after the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) in October posted a loss of £5.3m for the 2020 financial year ahead of what it anticipated would be an even tougher next 12 months.

In November, the UK government confirmed a £300m cash injection for major spectator sports in England, although elite men’s football and cricket were excluded as rugby union secured the lion’s share of the funding.

Last month, Scotland’s Sports Minister Joe FitzPatrick announced a £55m emergency sports funding package to tackle lost ticketing revenue caused by COVID-19. Scottish football received £30m of the funding, with Scottish rugby awarded £20m.

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