Hull KR owner predicts big losses due to coronavirus

Most Super League clubs stand to lose around £1million through the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell believes.

The Rugby Football League has announced that all matches, from the top flight to community clubs, are suspended until April 3 but the expectation is that the shutdown will last months rather than weeks.

Hudgell believes not playing the Hull derby on Good Friday could cost the club up to £150,000 and Hull KR also stand to lose a series of lucrative concerts scheduled for their Hull College Craven Park home, including Westlife and Little Mix on the weekend of July 10-12.

Jack Sargeant interview
Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell has painted a gloomy picture for rugby league (PA Images/Andrew Matthews)

“I budgeted for this year on a very cautious basis,” Hudgell said. “What has happened here has clearly thrown a monumental spanner in the works.

“Whether you play poorly and get 7,000 or play well and get 9,000, you are getting income. If you’re not playing games you get zero income.

“As a direct illustration of that we will lose up to £150,000 cash flow for not playing Hull FC on Good Friday. That is just one example in itself. Each club has particular circumstances.

“Given the suggestions this virus won’t peak until June, I think we are being over optimistic to suggest we will be back and functioning in early April, although no decisions have been made.

“For us in our cash flow, we have three concerts which with the best will in the world, don’t look like happening.

“The best-case scenario is those concerts still happen but nobody is going to buy tickets until the position becomes clearer. The reality is they will be postponed or not happen.

“The deals we have with those three concerts will net us at least £250,000 for those three events so you can image the size of that hole.”

Even reigning champions St Helens, who own their own stadium, are not immune from the crisis.

St Helens v Salford Red Devils – Betfred Super League – Grand Final – Old Trafford
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus says even the champions are set to feel the pinch (PA Images/Martin Rickett)

“This is a complete unknown scenario,” Saints chairman Eamonn McManus said. “This  is open-ended, you can’t quantify the liabilities here.

“Yes we’re in a good financial position but we probably have one of the higher cost bases as well.

“We run a stadium, we’ve got a conference and hospitality business seven days a week, that is already hit, and on top of that, our non match-day income is bigger than other clubs so our downside is higher.”

Hudgell believes the best hope of surviving the crisis is a through a Government bail-out.

“Every game that is lost is lost revenue we rely on month to month and the concert revenue from those concerts will have to be filled from somewhere else,” he added.

“The numbers all mount up and we are getting to a very high number by the end of the season.

“My guess is most clubs will have at least a million pound hole by the end of the season.

“Hence the call for government assistance. Regardless of what costs we can trim, they are only going to scratch the surface of what that hole we will be left with will be.”

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