SCARLETS’ Executive Chairman Simon Muderack has welcomed a funding package announced by the Welsh Government to help spectator sports severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The £17.7 million package, of which Welsh rugby will receive £13.5m, has been designed to provide immediate financial support for spectator sports through the remainder of the winter period, to ensure that sports will be ready for the beginning of the new season in September.

“The continued absence of our supporters from Parc y Scarlets presents a significant financial challenge, and we are grateful to the Welsh Government for this package, which will help us at the Scarlets and all of Welsh rugby push through this difficult period,” said Muderack.

“The safe return of crowds has been pushed further out than we anticipated, so we all recognise there is more work to be done to ensure that rugby as a whole in Wales is back next season.”

WRU CEO Steve Phillips also thanked the Welsh Government for the award from the Spectator Sports Survival Fund, on behalf of the professional game in Wales.

“During an incredibly challenging time we have found both Welsh Government and Sport Wales accessible, responsive and sympathetic to the plight of our game in Wales,” said Phillips.

“We always anticipated there would be challenges with spectator attendance at the recent Autumn Nations Cup. However, with the ongoing nature of the pandemic, no one is able to predict with any certainty when crowds will be allowed back into stadia, allowing our income streams to return to normal. As such, this £13.5m grant is timely and hugely helpful.”

The revenue funding package will be allocated to the sports’ national governing bodies directly from the Welsh Government, with the £13.5m being split equally between the WRU, Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Dragons.

As well as rugby union, support will also be provided to football, cricket and ice hockey, with rugby league, netball and horse racing also in line to benefit.

It is hoped that the funding will ensure the short-to-medium term survival of sports organisations and clubs who have been financially impacted by the restrictions on spectators at sporting events.

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “While restrictions on supporters at events have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives, there can be no doubt that they have created real hardships for many sports clubs, many of whom receive a significant proportion of their income through spectator attendance.

“Sport is an important sector of our economy and has a positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. Sporting events provide important shared experiences, have often been a welcome distraction during the pandemic and will be a vital player in our recovery and healing after the crisis.

“I know this money will provide some stability to those sports worst affected by the loss of revenue during the pandemic, helping to bridge the financial gap until spectators are able to return safely.”