The English Rugby Football Union (RFU) has altered its ticketing policy to reserve the first 28,000 passes for corporate contracts for this year’s international games at a reduced-capacity Twickenham Stadium.
The move would mean that supporters would not be able to purchase tickets unless the UK government allowed crowds of nearly 30,000 and above by autumn. Priority would be given to debenture and box holders, sponsors, as well as the union’s other partners for games at the 82,000-capacity stadium.
An RFU spokesperson said, according to the Guardian: “Given the unprecedented situation and the extreme financial pressure the RFU is under, the RFU council agreed to temporarily suspend the ticket distribution policy to allow for a focus on fulfilling contracted ticket groups for the 20-21 season.
“The decision was taken to preserve rugby revenues, which get invested back in the game. If it is safe for the autumn internationals to go ahead with crowds in attendance, we are hopeful that we will be able to offer tickets to a wide range of stakeholders and fans.”
Twickenham matches usually hold 50 per cent of tickets for the union’s affiliated clubs, who in turn sell them to their members, though that policy has been temporarily suspended for next season.
The government would need to approve crowds above 50,000 before “a more appropriate allocation model” is implemented.
With social distancing at one metre, which is to be implemented from Saturday in England, crowds of between 35,000-40,000 would be possible, according to the RFU.
A large number of tickets have already been contracted, meaning that the remaining seven- to 12,000 would be prioritised for the RFU’s affiliated clubs and key stakeholders.
The RFU estimates that crowds of that size would be worth £3m a match.
Around 85 per cent of the RFU’s revenue comes from matches at Twickenham and if England’s autumn fixtures against New Zealand, Tonga, Argentina and Australia at Twickenham in November are cancelled, losses of £122m are expected.
However, those matches may not take place and plans of a one-off eight-team tournament featuring the Six Nations as well as Japan and Fiji could take place instead.
The governing body’s ticket pricing strategy will not be confirmed until fixtures and permitted capacities have been agreed.