The general manager of the National Rugby League (LNR), Emmanuel Eschalier, takes stock of the financial situation of professional clubs. If the first state aid will finally be paid, French rugby is still “on the edge”.
Le Figaro: What is the financial situation of the Top 14 clubs at the start of the year?
Emmanuel Eschalier: The first part of the state financial aid will be paid in the last days of January, at the beginning of February at the latest. The clubs are impatiently awaiting him as their financial situation continues to worsen with the extension of the closed session. This is a deposit, up to 70% of the sums from the ticket office compensation fund. It is eagerly awaited, as is the confirmation of the application of social security tax exemptions for October-November-December, without being impacted by the ceiling of 800,000 euros already reached during the first confinement. This is a second extremely important point.
Will these aids constitute a valve?
This first realization of public support is eagerly awaited, but the situation is not improving as regards the possibility of welcoming the public. The closed session will go on for an indefinite period, the trend is not towards a rapid return of supporters to the stadiums. We are therefore going to need this state support to be extended beyond December 31, the date until which the first aid system was calibrated. In the next few weeks, there will be new discussions with the public authorities on support for professional sport particularly affected, like other sectors of activity, by restrictions linked to the health situation.
Does the specter of bankruptcy recede with the payment of this aid?
No no no ! He is always present. We are on a tightrope. And, unfortunately, I fear that we will stay on this thread until the end of the season. In spring, will the public be able to find their way back to the stadiums? What will happen to the final stages? The answers to these questions will have a major impact on clubs and on the League. Concern remains very high on the sustainability of certain clubs at the end of the current season. If the situation behind closed doors, or very strong restrictions on reception of the public – and unfortunately, in a lucid way, we are preparing for it – we will absolutely need the public authorities to continue to support us.
«Our sanitary protocol has proven its robustness. It allows the Top 14 to advance despite some vicissitudes»
Emmanuel Eschalier, DG of the League
Are you worried that the season will not come to an end?
No. On the progress of the Top 14, we see that, despite the measures taken by the government to adapt to the circulation of the virus, professional sport can continue. There is no reason to think that will change. It continued during the second confinement, so no we have no particular concerns on this point. Our concern was about the holding of matches. Our sanitary protocol has, I think, proved its robustness. It allows the Top 14 to advance despite some vicissitudes. There have been a number of matches postponed but these postponements made it possible to avoid an even more serious situation by stopping the circulation of the virus within the clubs and thus bringing the situation under control. What’s more, we are catching up on the schedule. On the evening of February 6 – fingers crossed – if there are no new postponements, it will be up-to-date with the exception of one late Bayonne game played at the end of February. It is a permanent fight so that the championship takes place under normal conditions. For now, we are staying the course. And we will do everything to continue to hold it.
»READ ALSO – Government officially calls for postponement of European Rugby Cup
Do the European Cups make you more worried, with the fear of contamination by Anglo-Saxon teams which would impact the Top 14?
We remain optimistic. The European Cups are due to resume in April. We are working with the EPCR and the other Leagues (English Premiership and Celtic Pro 14, NLDR) to adapt the format on the four weekends still scheduled in the spring to end the competition with an attractive format, and this same if the group stages could not go to an end. We must remain optimistic. It’s in three months. The vaccination campaign will have advanced …