English sports to get $400-million bailout, talks on fans’ return

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LONDON—English sports are receiving 300 million pounds (almost $400 million) from the government—with half going to rugby—to help them survive without fans being allowed into venues during the pandemic.

It has been eight months since full stadiums were allowed, although the government also expressed hope Thursday that fans could soon be allowed back in to watch games.

Even with England in a second national lockdown that runs through December 2, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said there is “definitely a chance” that supporters could return to sports before the end of the year as restrictions are eased.

“There’s a possibility in the lowest-risk areas to open the door ajar a little bit, start to prove in the lowest-risk areas that we could make this work then I’d love for us to be able to do that,” Dowden told Talk Sport radio.

The government had originally planned to start allowing spectators back into sports events in October but shelved those plans because of a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Rugby is receiving half of the “Sports Winter Survival Package,” which is mainly in the form of loans, but men’s professional football and cricket are not included.

Rugby union will receive 135 million pounds, including 44 million pounds for the English governing body, £59 million available to Premiership clubs, and the rest going to lower-division men’s teams.

Another 12 million pounds has been set aside for rugby league on top of 16 million pounds of emergency loans earlier in the year.

Football will receive £28 million, with £3 million for the Women’s Super League and second division Championship, and the rest going to men’s teams outside of the four professional divisions.

A financial lifeline is also being provided to horse racing, motor sports, tennis, netball, basketball, ice hockey, badminton and greyhound racing.

“These are unprecedented times for our sector, and those sports and leagues that rely so heavily on spectators for their income that have been especially impacted by the pandemic,” said Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of Sport England. “The role they play in their local communities is vital and this package of support from government will be hugely welcomed.” AP

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