Leicester Tigers have secured the club’s financial future beyond Covid-19 thanks to a combination of increased investment, bank support, Government assistance and the loyalty of the club’s extensive fanbase.
As the best-supported club in Premiership Rugby, Tigers have been hit hard by the loss of income from matchday sales during this period, with no supporters admitted to a home game at Mattioli Woods Welford Road since the end of February 2020, and while the local community has also had to cope with lockdown restrictions over a similar lengthy period.
Tigers acknowledge that tough decisions have had to be taken which have affected players and staff in all areas of the business but, in working diligently through these, the club is now better placed to execute and achieve its strategic plan.
This has been possible thanks to support in four main areas:
- Loyalty and commitment of sponsors and supporters
- New agreement with HSBC Bank
- Increased investment from major shareholders Tom Scott and Peter Tom CBE
- Receipt of emergency sport funding from the Government via Sport England
The increased shareholder investment, agreement with the bank and Government support totals more than £10million as Tigers address the impact of more than 12 months without income from match tickets sales, hospitality packages, stadium hire, bar and food sales, and revenues from the stadium club shop as well as numerous club events both at the stadium and elsewhere in the community.
Club chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “When we first went into lockdown and assessed the impact that Covid-19 would have on the club and the community we live in, I had two main objectives to pursue with the Board.
“The first was the survival of this great club and the second was to come through this challenge with solid foundations in place to improve the future of the club on and off the pitch.
“We went through a very rigorous process to secure Government funding, which was largely based on the importance of the Tigers in our own community and the club’s work within it.
“That loan will, of course, have to be paid back over the long term and, while it does not fully replace the revenues lost from matchdays, when it is added to the other financial support the club has received and the commitment of our season ticket holders and sponsors, we have guaranteed the primary objective of ensuring this historic club is still here for the future.
“This allows us to work on firm financial planning for the future and our ambitions for the club on and off the pitch.”
The plc’s Annual Report and Accounts published this week shows just how important that support is to the club with a drop in income of £5.2million in the period up to July 2020 from lost matchday income as well as reductions in central funding, stadium usage and club events.
“In a unique season during 2019/20, we played five of our 11 scheduled home games in Premiership Rugby behind closed doors and had a home game in a European quarter-final cancelled,” added Chairman Peter Tom.
“Now we’ve reached the halfway point in the 2020/21 season with another eight home games already affected, including one cancellation due to the pandemic.
“Even with the Government’s recently-announced Covid-19 roadmap for the relaxation of restrictions following the start of the nationwide vaccination programme, the likelihood is that games will remain closed to supporters for at least a few more months.
“Any company unable to operate the main part of its business for that length of time would feel a major impact and, as a plc, we have had a duty to shareholders to address some serious questions over the last year.
“The club dealt with those issues early on, with structural change and management of major costs including new agreements with players and staff, and that has also helped us to plot a way forward.
“A huge amount of work has gone into steering the business to this point and we have only managed to do that thanks to the excellent support of everyone involved – shareholders and stakeholders, the bank, our sponsors, the government, Premiership Rugby and the Tigers Family of fans.
“It has been heartening to see new sponsors and renewed agreements with other partners during this period. We are delighted to welcome Topps Tiles on board as main partners and to agree new terms with Mattioli Woods who have increased their support and taken naming rights to the stadium.
“I think that speaks volumes for the club and its place in our community, especially as everyone is dealing with their own challenges in their own markets at this time.
“Also, when we needed their help most, it was humbling to see the incredible backing of our season ticket holders.
“Many of them declined a refund on their 2019/20 tickets and chose to donate their money or leave it with us, even when they have been unable to attend matches, because they appreciate how important the Tigers is within our city and county, and the importance of their own contribution to the club.
“Our supporters can see the improvements on the field, with Steve Borthwick and Aled Walters driving that, and there is a onstrategy in place to strengthen the squad to maintain that development alongside investment in our successful academy.
“We remain hugely grateful for that support and now, with the proposed pathway towards an easing of some of the restrictions on gatherings and sporting events, we look forward to welcoming everyone back safely whenever it is possible to do so.”