Scottish Rugby open to second round of Club Hardship Fund, says Sheila Begbie

Scottish Rugby are not ruling out making more money available to clubs through the Club Hardship Fund.

Nearly £400,000 was given out to 82 clubs today (Wednesday) through the fund, set up in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

And Sheila Begbie, Director of Rugby Development at Scottish Rugby, spoke to the media on a Zoom call this afternoon.

‘What we all don’t want is for our clubs to go to the wall’

She said that they will do all they can to support clubs. “I would say that we’re very much alive to, and will be very much directed by, what clubs are asking us for. 

“If this goes on for much longer, or we have a second wave, we will be very much open to working with our clubs to look at how we continue to support them financially.

“What we all don’t want is for our clubs to go to the wall. So certainly, if there is any support we can look to give them if this is a much longer period than we’re in at the moment, then absolutely, we’ll be open to discussions with clubs.”  

“There were four categories of support the clubs were looking for – premises, people, utilities and grounds – and the two biggest areas were people and grounds,” she said. 

“In terms of people, clubs were looking for support for their staff, using the government’s job-retention scheme to keep their staff and looking to Scottish Rugby to pay the additional 20%. 

“We’ve done that with a number of clubs, so they’ve managed to retain their people.

“In terms of grounds, a lot of the clubs are using external contractors to maintain their pitches and so on. 

“So, from our perspective it’s been about supporting clubs to ensure their pitches are maintained in order that when we’re ready to restart rugby we can actually do that.

“We had a pretty good, even spread of investment across the five Scottish Rugby regions. 

“Thirty-eight of the clubs received what they had asked for. Some of the clubs came in with a significant ask over the normal maximum of £5,000 that wasn’t within the criteria, and maybe some were looking to future-proof their business a wee bit more. 

“The feedback from clubs has been incredibly positive, and they welcomed our proactive approach.”

Reinvesting in the game

Begbie also confirmed that the outstanding balance, of around £120,000, will be reinvested in the game, and that proposals are currently being drawn up on how to spend the money.    

“We should be able to share that detail in the next couple of weeks,” she said. 

There’s a lot of uncertainty

Begbie did, though, say that the club game could face retrenchment. 

“Like every other business, Scottish Rugby has been majorly impacted financially by COVID-19. 

“There is no guarantee of anything, and it absolutely depends on how long this situation goes on for, if we have a second wave [of the virus]. 

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, which is really challenging for all of us.”

Image caption: Sheila Begbie, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development, has not ruled out more money being made available to clubs. Image credit: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group

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