Scottish Rugby will pump a record £6.5 million into community clubs in Scotland to help the sport emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cash comes from the £15 million grant Scottish Rugby received from the Scottish Government to assist with pandemic issues, but specifically to assist clubs throughout the country.
The organisation also got a £5 million low-interest loan as part of the relief package, and the grant was delivered to Murrayfield in February.
Three-pronged support package
Some £1.5 million will be available from May, £500,000 in a Club Recovery Fund for clubs to enable them to avoid immediate hardship and prepare clubhouses and facilities for a return to play.
A further £1 million is in the Return to Rugby Fund, to support club and referee society plans to recruit and retain players, coaches, volunteers, match officials and support staff. Clubs will be invited to apply for ‘kick start’ grants of up to £7,500.
The remaining £5 million will be in a Growth and Participation Fund which will go live in January and issue £1 million each year for five years.
Focus on state schools, youth and women’s rugby
“This fund will support a comprehensive growth and participation strategy,” said a statement from Scottish Rugby. “It will look to support plans and programmes from the Union and clubs individually and collectively to create sustainable improvements in player numbers.
“We will focus on schools and youth rugby with an emphasis on state schools. The package will also drive a comprehensive girls and women’s strategy from primary schools through to the international team.”
In addition, Scottish Rugby’s existing support payments mechanism for clubs will rise to £3 million a year and be index-linked for the next five years.
Details of the application process for the money will be published and communicated directly to member clubs shortly, the statement added.
Clubs with immediate funding issue that requires direct intervention are asked to contact their Regional Director.
‘A lasting impact on participation’
Scottish Rugby President, Ian Barr said: “This comprehensive funding package has been designed to not only meet the existing needs of clubs as we look to resume after the pandemic, but to also have a lasting impact on growth and participation in the community game in Scotland.
“The Scottish Rugby Council will be involved in the awards process and welcomes the generous funding from the Scottish Government which has contributed to this raft of support being made possible.”
John Jeffrey, chairman of Scottish Rugby added: “This is a massive boost to clubs across the country. We are delighted to be in a position to fund programmes and activities designed to stimulate the game in Scotland following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on club activity and finances.
“We welcome the generous support of the Scottish Government and are committed to distribute any funding in accordance with their guidelines.”
There had been growing concern among member clubs at the time taken to arrive at a support package with the government grant cash, but the plan was finally approved at a meeting of the Scottish Rugby Council earlier this week.