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RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO

My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.

Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.  

IMPACT

To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:

•       An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.  

•       Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.

•       A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).  

•       The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years. 

We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice. 

We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.

The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration

Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.

No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.

The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country. 

The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.

WELFARE  

We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels. 

We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.

I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.

6 Nations

Ireland To Take On US Eagles In Las Vegas

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Ireland will take on the US Eagles at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday 30th October 2021. The fixture is in addition to Ireland’s regular November Series of Test matches at the Aviva Stadium in November.

“It’s thrilling to host an international rugby event of this calibre in Las Vegas, and we can’t wait to welcome the teams and their fans to the Sports Capital of the World,” said Steve Hill, LVCVA CEO and president. “Nothing can match the energy and excitement of game day in Las Vegas.

We’re confident the teams and their fans will find the only-in-Vegas experiences they’ve come to expect, from incredible entertainment and dining to outstanding attractions and outdoor adventure.”

“Following an eventful summer, this fixture is exactly the growth we’re excited to see for our Men’s Eagles, with meaningful test matches at home against top nations,” said Ross Young, CEO of USA Rugby. “Allegiant Stadium is a first-class fan experience, and we’re thrilled to partner on this venue’s first-ever rugby match.”

“Matching up with Ireland for a second time this year, particularly on home soil, gives us a lot to look forward to,” said Gary Gold, USA Men’s Head Coach. “Las Vegas has always put a spotlight on rugby, where we’re excited to follow our Rugby World Cup qualification fixtures on such a big stage.”

The game against the US Eagles on 30th October will be the first ever rugby international fixture to be held at the Allegiant Stadium which is the home of NFL franchise the Las Vegas Raiders.

Ireland have been regular visitors to the US in recent years with matches against the Eagles in 2013 and 2017 and two fixtures in Chicago against New Zealand (2016) and Italy (2017).

Andy Farrell, Ireland Head Coach, commented: “Over the past few years we have had some incredible experiences playing in the US.  We had two very memorable trips to Chicago which included beating the All Blacks at Soldier Field for the first time in our history and our last fixture against the Eagles in New Jersey was another fantastic rugby experience.  We are looking forward to the game in October and to reconnecting with Irish Rugby fans in the US.”

James Ryan scores a try on his debut against the USA in 2017

James Ryan, who made his international debut against the US Eagles in New Jersey in 2017 and is Ireland captain for the forthcoming July tests, said: “Anytime we have played in the US we have had tremendous support either travelling from Ireland or Irish Rugby fans based in America.

We have been lucky to experience some great cities and stadia on our recent trips across the Atlantic but Las Vegas will be special and to be the first rugby game to be played at the Allegiant Stadium will just make it an even bigger occasion for players and fans alike.”

Ticket pre-sale starts at 10 AM on Tuesday, June 22 with public on-sale starting at 10 AM PDT on Friday, June 25.

Tickets start from $70 + fees and taxes.

Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/17005ACF1BD06533

Pre-Sale Schedule

Tuesday June 22

Las Vegas Raiders PSL Owners

Wednesday June 23 – Thursday June 24

USA Rugby Members & Partner
Irish Rugby Football Union Members & Partners
Allegiant Stadium Partners
MGM Resorts MLife Rewards Members
Las Vegas Convention & Visitor Authority Partner Network

Friday June 25

General public on sale

IRELAND RECENT FIXTURES IN THE UNITED STATES
USA 12 Ireland 15 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, June 2013
Ireland 40 New Zealand 29 – Soldier Field, Chicago, November 2016
USA 19 Ireland 55 – Red Bull Arena, New Jersey, June 2017
Ireland 54 Italy 7 – Soldier Field, Chicago, November 2018

Source – Irish Rugby

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6 Nations

Irish Rugby Ready to Welcome Supporters Back to the Aviva Stadium

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images
The IRFU is pleased to play its part in the government’s outdoor pilot sporting event programme by staging two international fixtures at the Aviva Stadium; v Japan (Saturday, July 3rd) and USA (Saturday, July 10th)

Capacity at the Aviva for the Vodafone Summer Series will be limited to up to 3,000 (5.8% capacity) supporters for the game against Japan on the 3rd July and 6,000 (12% capacity) supporters for the USA fixture on the 10thJuly.

It will be the first time that any supporters will have attended the Aviva Stadium since Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations game against Wales on the 8th February 2020.

In recognition of their contribution to society the IRFU will allocate 300 tickets for the Japan Game to front line workers, while all clubs will be represented by club Presidents, who will be invited guests of IRFU President, Des Kavanagh.

For the USA game an allocation of circa 25% of the reduced capacity will go to rugby clubs via their branch ticket office.  Any tickets not taken up by clubs will be reallocated by the branch ticket office.  All tickets are priced at €40 for both games

As these are pilot events, the remaining tickets will be allocated, in reduced numbers to players’ partners and family members, long term ticketholders and IRFU  sponsors and media partners.

In line with government guidelines supporter safety is a key focus of these reopening pilots.  All attendees will be required to adhere to strict COVID safety protocols in order to ensure the success of these events.

Philip Browne, IRFU Chief Executive, commented, “Firstly I would like to thank the government for their approval of these two international rugby fixtures as pilot events.  It has been a long time since the Ireland team have played in front of live  albeit limited support, at the Aviva Stadium.

These games are initial positive steps on the journey back to hopefully full stadia across the Island.  The numbers are small, but I am sure spectators will make themselves heard in cheering on the team.  We look to deliver two successful safe events, as our part in  the government approved sporting and cultural pilots in the months ahead.

We hope that this programme, if successful  will put us all in a strong position to welcome back larger numbers of fans to the Aviva Stadium in the Autumn when we will have three international rugby fixtures including games against New Zealand and Argentina.”

Both July games will be televised live on RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).

The matches remain subject to ongoing government approval.

Ticket Information

Spectator Safety COVID Protocols

To help protect you and your fellow supporters, we ask that you comply fully with the following protocols in relation to COVID spectator safety while attending matches at the Aviva Stadium.

The following COVID protocols are in addition to the normal stadium regulations that operate for all major sporting events at the Aviva Stadium. (see below).

Entry to the stadium constitutes your acceptance of the Spectator Safety COVID Protocols and any breach, in line with Stadium Regulations, may result in ejection from the stadium.

Key Points:

  • Download your e-ticket to your phone for contactless entry to stadium.
  • It is requested that you download and install the HSE COVID-19 Contact Tracing App.
  • Make note of your Stadium entry point in advance and arrive at the advised time.
  • Supporters must remain in their assigned seats apart from when using amenities.
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking, unless you are under 13.
  • Maintain good hand hygiene by availing of hand sanitiser dispensers provided throughout the Stadium.
  • Tickets are not transferrable and must be used by the person named on the e-ticket.

In Advance of the Game:

  • Do not attend if you are experiencing COVID symptoms or are a close contact of a suspected case .
  • It is your responsibility to personally assess your ability to attend if considered a vulnerable person .
  • Ensure those attending the match with you have read and understood these guidelines

At the Game:

  • Please follow the directions of the stewards and any signage provided.
  • Please observe physical distancing at all times and in all parts of the grounds.
  • Please proceed to your allocated seating and remain there until exiting unless using amenities .
  • Avoid contact with others who are not in your social bubble.
  • When moving past others in a seated area, please avoid face to face contact with other spectators.
  • If you feel ill, please contact your closest steward for assistance.

Other Points to Note:

  • Contact information provided at ticket purchase and seat allocation will be kept for up to 28 days to facilitate contact tracing.
  • A free digital programme will be available to download for each game from irishrugby.ie .
  • You are advised to bring your own refreshments, as limited refreshment concessions will be in operation for these games, but no alcohol will be on sale.

Useful Links

Please follow all HSE COVID-19 health guidelines

A full list of Spectator Safety COVID Protocols for the Vodafone Summer Series matches will be available on www.irishrugby.ie.

Ireland Vodafone Summer Series 2021 Fixtures

Ireland v Japan
Saturday 3rd July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 13.00

Ireland v USA
Saturday 10th July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 19.15

Source Irish Rugby

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6 Nations

Ireland Squad Confirmed For Vodafone Summer Series

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Andy Farrell and the coaching team have named a 37 man squad for the Vodafone Summer Series which features two Tests in July against Japan and the USA at the Aviva Stadium.

The match against Japan on Saturday 3rd July will kick off at 1.00pm and the fixture against the USA on Saturday 10th July will kick off at 7.15pm.

Both fixtures are part of the government’s outdoor pilot sport event programme which will see limited supporters back in the Aviva Stadium.

James Ryan will captain the squad during the Vodafone Summer Series and there are 11 uncapped players named – Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney (Ulster), Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Paul Boyle (Connacht), Harry Byrne, Peter Dooley, Ross Molony (Leinster), Gavin Coombes, Fineen Wycherley (Munster).

Andy Farrell, Ireland head coach, said, “We now have two games at home to focus on which will be a good challenge for the group.  Japan played the Sunwolves at the weekend and will play the Lions the week before we play at the Aviva Stadium and we know the quality of their squad from the World Cup.

We will assemble as a squad on the 22nd June and begin our preparations for the two games.

I know the players will come in eager to make the most of this opportunity to pull on the green jersey and play in front of supporters for at the Aviva Stadium for the first time in 18 months. Johnny (Sexton), Cian (Healy) and Keith (Earls) will not be involved in this window as we grow the experience of other players.   It will be a great opportunity to see can this group perform at this level.”

Both games will be broadcast live by RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).

Ireland Squad – Vodafone Summer Series

Backs (17)

Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 4 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) uncapped
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) uncapped
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 22 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 1 cap
Tom Daly (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 29 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 34 caps

Forwards (20)

Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 3 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 14 caps
Paul Boyle (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Peter Dooley (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 21 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 11 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 43 caps
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 75 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 23 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped

Selected for British & Irish Lions Tour:
Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Andrew Porter (inj)

IRELAND v Japan
Saturday 3rd July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 13.00hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

IRELAND v USA
Saturday 10th July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 19.15hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

Images & Content from Irish Rugby

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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