SHEILA Begbie, the SRU’s director of rugby development, has urged more clubs to apply to the Club Hardship Fund for help before the end-of-month deadline. The amount of money applied for to date falls well short of the £500,000 figure earmarked for the fund, but Begbie insisted that the SRU would put more money in if the need arose, allowing clubs to apply for more than the current usual maximum of £5,000.

“To date we’ve had 27 clubs who have applied, to a value of circa £200,000,” Begbie explained. “The applications will close on 30th April. We would obviously love more clubs to make an application. We will sit down with all the information that’s come in, and then make a decision so that we will pay the clubs in June.

“We will do whatever it takes in terms of supporting clubs. If this [period without rugby] were to go on for a substantial period, £5,000 is not enough for clubs, so we will review it and look at what we have to do going forward. Once we get into June, end of June, we’ll look to review where we are, and what the information is that’s coming from the UK and Scottish Governments – and maybe whether or not we have an indication of when rugby will start again.”

Applications to the fund opened at the end of March and so far most clubs have asked for sums within the £5,000 limit. When it was launched, however, provision was made for larger amounts to be awarded in “exceptional circumstances”, and Begbie explained that some clubs had already applied on those grounds.

“I would say the majority are in a ballpark figure of £4,000-plus,” she continued. “While we are saying it [the maximum] is £5,000, in extenuating circumstances it can actually be more than that. We’ve had a number of clubs who’ve applied for more than £5,000. The maximum that has been applied for at the moment has been circa £14,000.

“One of the pretexts of us looking at the Club Hardship Fund was we were quite clear that we didn’t want any of the clubs to go to the wall as the result of Covid-19. At the moment

we don’t have any intel on clubs that are potentially going to go to the wall, and we hope that doesn’t happen. That’s why we’re looking to invest in clubs and support them through this period.

“The kind of support that we’re seeing clubs requesting is around retaining their staff – that’s been by far the biggest majority. Clubs are looking to both the CHF and government job-retention scheme.

“We’ve also got other clubs that are looking for support around their utilities – their gas, electricity, water and waste. And these clubs are calculating what they need to maintain their club while the clubs are closed, and speaking to their suppliers.

“So they’re looking for us to support them with payment of utilities.”

As the domestic season has been declared null and void, clubs will not automatically receive the prize money they would have got according to where they finished in which league. But Begbie insisted that the prize pot – which pays out sums ranging from a few thousand to several hundred – would still be disbursed to clubs one way or another.

“We will look at that money. Absolutely, that money will not go back into the big pot, because it has been ring-fenced for the club game.

“Because the clubhouses haven’t been used, there’s a potential for something like legionnaires’ disease.

Should we support all clubs at all levels who have facilities? We’re looking at different

options of what we might do going forward. Maybe we need to wait and see.”