(Reuters) - Britain's grassroots rugby union clubs will receive more than 40 million pounds ($55.39 million) in support funds amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Sports Ministry announced on Friday.
The government will also provide up to 5.5 million pounds to help England's second-tier Championship, which kicks off on Saturday after 11 teams agreed to invest in mandatory COVID-19 testing.
"The Sports Minister has announced the latest tranche of funding from the Government's Sport Winter Survival Package, which will see more than 40 million pounds provided to support grassroots rugby union clubs and up to 5.5 million pounds to support the launch of the men’s Championship competition from this weekend," the Sports Ministry said in a statement.
More than half of the funding, however, is in the form of loans "to support the survival of community club assets", the statement added.
Rugby union at grassroots level was allowed to resume by the UK government last December, only to be suspended again in January as COVID-19 cases rose again.
“We know that the restrictions on spectators continue to have consequences for many sports, particularly Rugby Union and its clubs from elite through to grassroots level," said Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.
“That’s why we’re helping our major spectator sports, with money already benefiting more than 100 organisations, from women’s football, to netball, badminton and basketball, and more to follow over the coming weeks as we navigate our roadmap back to normality."
($1 = 0.7222 pounds)
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)