Sports bodies’ workers face the axe


RFU job cuts July 2020 Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) boss Bill Sweeney has revealed that since the organization is feeling the COVID-19 financial heat, a proposal has been made to go in for as many as 139 job cuts.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is the governing body for rugby union in England. It was founded in 1871, and was the sport’s international governing body prior to the formation of what is now known as World Rugby (WR) in 1886.

In a statement posted on the RFU website, Sweeney said that the body’s detailed scenario modeling shows there may be a short-term impact of £107m (€119m/$134m) in form of lost revenues and admitted that there would be a much longer-term effect.

The RFU is projecting a four- to five-year recovery period with cumulative reductions of around 20 percent. Sweeney pointed out that one of the main financial challenges the RFU has faced in recent months is that it relied hugely on match and event revenue at Twickenham Stadium (rugby union stadium in southwest London, England).

Maintained Sweeney, “We have to make difficult decisions on what we can continue to invest in as well as what is the right size and shape of our business for the future. To ensure we have a sustainable RFU we have announced to colleagues that it is proposed that the total number of roles across the organization will reduce by 139. This will be a difficult process, but we will be consulting with colleagues in a fair way to completely remodel our business.”

The RFU will focus on supporting the community game and its member clubs, maintaining its ability to “compete and win in the performance arena”, and delivering on its purpose of enriching lives, introducing more people and more diversity to the sport.

Sweeney also informed that the employees will be consulted thus giving them an opportunity to share their views on reshaping the business ahead of any decisions being announced at the end of August.

Sweeney added, “We have already made some significant cost savings. We furloughed 60 percent of our organization; implemented a three-month pay reduction which has been extended for some; introduced pension pauses; and refined business planning and introduced stadium and office running efficiencies to reduce costs.”

“Unfortunately, this is not enough to run a sustainable operation and safeguard our future. We need to maintain our organization for the long term, this is not a short-term cost reduction exercise, the RFU will still stand, but the impact of COVID-19 will continue to affect us for many years to come,” he lamented.

The England national team is due to play against New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia at Twickenham on consecutive weekends in November, and the RFU is hopeful that there will be limited fans’ attendance.

English Football Association marching orders

The English Football Association (FA) recently declared that 82 people are set to get the marching orders as it seeks to embark on a cost-cutting drive to address projected losses of around £300m (€327.4m/$369.1m) due to COVID-19 which has had a disastrous effect on the sporting sector.

The English Football Association is the governing body of association football in England. Formed in 1863, it is the oldest football association in the world and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in its territory.

The FA, which owns Wembley Stadium, has seen the events calendar for English football’s national stadium go for a six due to the deadly respiratory disease. Stating that it now has a greater understanding of the “long-term and irreversible effect” of COVID-19 on its finances, the FA said it anticipates many of its future revenue streams to be affected for a “considerable time”.

Talking about events, the Wembley Stadium was due to be the centerpiece of this summer’s UEFA Euro 2020, with the final, semi-finals, Round of 16 and group stage games taking place in London. UEFA announced recently that all 12 host cities have been locked in for the rescheduled tournament, which will now take place from June 11 to July 11 in 2021.

American football league – the National Football League (NFL) – declared in May that it will schedule all games in the United States this year, meaning that no fixtures will be played at Wembley or Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (in North London) as originally planned.

FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham noted, “The financial challenge we face is a significant one. We have lost all of the revenue from events at Wembley Stadium since March and all other future bookings, such as the music concerts in August and the NFL games in October.”

“Our hospitality revenue from Wembley Stadium, which usually delivers around £35m per year, has completely fallen away and will probably take years to recover. In addition, many of our sponsors and broadcasters have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and, in turn, we are not able to deliver the content we are committed to,” Bullingham added.

“This result in pressure on us financially as in some cases we need to pay compensation, for example where events are canceled,” he pointed out.

Bullingham asserted that the FA has “forensically analyzed” the budget of every division in order to identify the most suitable areas to make costs savings, adding the situation has worsened to such a point that it now needs to hand out pink slips to deal with the financial impact of the emergency health situation which has arose due to the coronavirus crisis.

The FA is proposing to make 124 positions redundant. Recruitment was suspended the day the FA left its offices amid the COVID-19 lockdown in March.

The governing body said it has been able to take 42 vacant positions out of the structure, which means it is proposing to remove 82 roles from the organization.

Bullingham added, “We do not think that it would be right to wait and see if the next few months bring greater certainty. The reality we are faced with is that no one knows the future and I believe that the money we have already lost, combined with the uncertainty of the coming months, means that we need to consider these proposals to avoid making matters worse in time.”

“Going through this process now, as difficult as it is for all of us, means that in our worst-case scenarios we should still be able to overcome them and not need to repeat this exercise next year. The next few weeks will be very tough for everyone at the FA and our aim is to ensure that we emerge in the strongest possible state and be ready for better times in the future,” he maintained.

Qatar pink slips

Elsewhere, the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ organizing committee in Qatar has announced redundancies of its own.

A statement released by Qatar 2022 read, “The (organizing committee) has recently undertaken an internal exercise to assess the current workforce and engaged in a budget management and operational efficiency exercise as part of this transition. As a result, we have taken the decision to make a number of positions redundant. All due salary and end of service benefits will be paid to those leaving, in line with Qatari labour laws.”

Out of Qatar’s eight stadiums being built for the FIFA spectacle, three have been completed, with the Education City Stadium going on stream last month.

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