England Sevens team funding cut in drastic Covid-19 reaction

England Sevens team funding cut in drastic Covid reaction

In a move that has stunned many, the England Sevens teams’ funding has been cut by the RFU in a drastic Covid-19 pandemic reaction that may impact the men’s Olympic dreams.

The media report from The Telegraph has been quoted widely, yet all the information points to a gaping hole in the RFU [England Rugby] bank balance, and the rugby sevens program is a victim of circumstance. Kate Rowan first reported that players were told their contracts would be put on pause for up to five months, yet by Friday August 7, the same reporter seemed convinced that funding was cut indefinitely.

This would mean that an England Sevens team for men or women would not be represented in any revised 2020/21 Sevens Series and – most pertinently – players might not be involved at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; rescheduled for July/August 2021.

England Sevens team funding cut in drastic Covid reaction

The global pandemic has caused both the 7s and XVs seasons to be halted prematurely. In the HSBC Sevens Series, World Rugby decided to cancel the remaining season and awarded the men’s and women’s titles to New Zealand.

England, who earned a men’s silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was placed fifth on the standings at the time. Their best finish had been third place at the Dubai Sevens, so even while needing to improve their performance in the World Series, England players could still have had high hopes for the Tokyo tournament. Yet, it looks like now, they might not be in a position to contest for the Gold medal (as a part of a Great Britain side).

Both men and women will have been contacted by RFU directly. Although, from the reported reaction by players like Dan Norton, they are downhearted to say the least. He told the Telegraph, “the more I think about it, the more frustrated I get”.

He and every man and woman contracted with the RFU must feel that ‘the carpet has been pulled from underneath them’. And Covid-19 could specifically be the reason for such contract decisions yet, long term implications are obvious. The pinnacle event for rugby sevens is the Olympics. Decisions that now see hopes for a powerful Team Great Britain campaign in real jeopardy.

Kate Rowan wrote in her exclusive; ‘Players express their frustrations at now being out of a job’ a year out from Tokyo Games.

England Sevens might not contribute to Team GB at Tokyo Olympics

If Dan Norton is frustrated, then one can imagine how the probable members of Team Great Britain feel. These are the partnering nations of England, Wales, and Scotland rugby respectively. Qualified already to compete in Tokyo, that composite side would have comprised the best from these three teams, who each compete in the Sevens Series.

Now, how can a complete team be developed if the RFU/england team have been pulled?

England is an equal partner so you might hope that at a corporate level, the RFU board will have considered the Welsh Rugby Union and Scottish Rugby Union’s goals. Yet, from the reports, it appears to be a financial decision primarily.

Team GB
LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 19: The men’s rugby 7s team pose for a photo during the announcement of Rugby 7’s athletes named in Team GB for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on July 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The correlation here is that both financially and commercially, it is that Sevens does not receive funding from UK Sport; the organization responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sports in the country. Apparently the RFU said it ‘could no longer support the England sevens teams in the current climate’.

An unnamed RFU spokesperson told the Telegraph, “we have approached UK Sport for funding and are exploring the option* for a Team GB sevens team.

“We are also in dialogue with World Rugby about the program for the World Sevens Series and when games are likely to be played. With no current support in funding, we are not in a position to sustain the team in its current format.”

From this judgement, players and fans of rugby sevens will suffer.

How any organization makes such drastic decisions – even in drastic Covid-19 times – shows a lack of appreciation of the sport. One that might not provide the same revenue to the percentage of XVs but, anytime that the London Sevens leg filled the Twickenham coffers, you know the RFU benefitted from that teams’ singular earnings.

Today, that appreciation has been ‘all but lost’ in the spreadsheets.


All quotes and facts have been sourced from the Irish Times re-published content of The Telegraph original article dated August 6.

*at the time of publishing, UK Sport has not made a public announcement on their future funding of rugby sevens. Last Word on Rugby hopes that with thought, UKS decide that the men and women can be supported to see a Team GB compete [full strength] at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


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