Cancelled autumn Tests would cost RFU £107m in revenue

The RFU generates 85% of its income from hosting men’s internationals at Twickenham

The Rugby Football Union will be hit with revenue losses of £107m if the 2020 autumn internationals are cancelled because of coronavirus, chief executive Bill Sweeney says.

He said the lost revenue would be £85m if games were played without fans.

England are scheduled to host New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia at Twickenham in November.

“It is a very significant loss of revenue and we are doing what we can to mitigate it,” he added.

Sweeny was speaking to the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee as part of a discussion on the impact of the coronavirus on England’s major sports.

The RFU has already lost £15m as a result of the pandemic and is set to lose £32m in revenue even if November’s matches go ahead as planned.

Sweeney and other executives, as well as England head coach Eddie Jones, have taken a pay cut of more than 25% in response to the crisis.

England are due to tour Japan in July and Sweeney suggested last month this could be moved to October.

England’s 2020 Six Nations campaign is yet to be completed, with their final game against Italy postponed.

Guidelines released by global governing body World Rugby on Monday suggested elite matches should be played behind closed doors until a coronavirus vaccine is freely available.

But Sweeney hopes England’s final Six Nations fixture can be played in October or November and said it will be “catastrophic” if the 2021 edition of the tournament is cancelled.

“Twickenham is a major asset for us – 85% of our income comes from hosting men’s international games at Twickenham,” he said.

“When you own a stadium it is a major cost and at the same time brings in large revenue.

“If this was to be prolonged and the Six Nations games were impacted, then it would be a catastrophic impact on rugby union in England.

“We would be looking at some very severe situations.”

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