RUGBY UNION is staring at oblivion — with Twickenham chiefs begging for a multi-million-pound bailout from Boris Johnson.
In a chilling warning to Downing Street, RFU chief Bill Sweeney said that without fans, already obliterated clubs would go bust.
The Government announced on Tuesday that sport is facing another six months without punters.
And Sweeney is predicting losses over £100MILLION if there are no fans inside their HQ paying to watch England this autumn.
RFU chief executive Sweeney said: “An autumn without crowds would leave us with little choice but to approach government for financial help.
“Unfortunately, we are now in that position. Without support, we are in danger of clubs at the heart of communities across England, as well as players and volunteers, disappearing forever.
“With no fans this autumn we will see a £122m reduction in revenue, resulting in a loss of £46m. And with no fans for the Guinness Six Nations we will see a £138m reduction in revenue with a loss of £60m.
“That would prevent investment in areas such as the women’s elite game and community rugby. Premiership and Championship Clubs will face significant financial hardship.
“Our community rugby clubs, many of which run grounds at the heart of their communities, are under threat.
“Without crowds and league games community rugby will lose an estimated £86m in revenue this season.
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“The RFU has already made difficult decisions in significantly reducing our Sevens programme, reducing investment across all areas of the game, implementing salary reductions and making 140 people redundant.
“All of these decisions will have a significant and lasting impact on rugby.”
England are hoping to complete their Six Nations campaign in Italy on October 31 before the new Autumn Nations Cup which starts in mid-November.
RFU chiefs had been lobbying to get 20,000 fans inside their 82,000 home for clashes against Georgia, Ireland and one other unconfirmed side.
As part of the way cash flows through the game, the RFU hand out vital funds they generate from £10m-plus gates at Twickenham during the autumn and Six Nations period.
And without that money, the boss of England’s most-successful club also fears for the game’s future.
Saracens boss Mark McCall, whose side take on Racing 92 in Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final, said: “It’s a very worrying situation for all clubs.
“If England don’t get crowds during the autumn and the Premiership don’t start having crowds before Christmas, it’s going to be a really worrying time. It’s very serious.”
Just hours before they were due to welcome fans to The Rec for the first time since March, Bath had to pull the plug on their test event after orders from No 10.
Now they are in the process of refunding 1,000 season-ticket holders who had hoped to see the 240th West Country derby against Gloucester.
Bath managing director Tarquin McDonald said: “We are gutted for those supporters — this was like the Golden Ticket.
“The longer it goes on, the longer it runs the risk of being devastating.”
Prem Rugby chief Darren Childs added: “We believe the lack of supporters in our grounds could cause irreparable damage to our clubs and the communities they serve, so we must find a way forward to avoid this.
“We look forward to working with government on a rescue package.”