The coronavirus outbreak has bluntly exposed rugby union's financial instability – countless clubs and organisations face the prospect of bankruptcy if the epidemic continues.

England's RFU – arguably the sport's wealthiest organisation – is predicting a NZ$100 million financial black hole, while Rugby Australia will suffer an estimated $120 million revenue loss if no rugby is played in 2020. New Zealand Rugby are also estimating losses of over $100 million if they can't get back onto the field. One can only imagine how the minnow nations will cope.

However, RFU CEO Bill Sweeney believes a silver lining will emerge from the economic turmoil – a radical overhaul of rugby union could lead to greater global co-operation and a more prosperous sport.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted pre-existing faults in the sport, and Sweeney believes unions will be forced to work with one another to ensure survival and eventual prosperity.


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"What's coming out of this is another level of co-operation and collaboration that is going on," Sweeney told BBC Sport.

"Everyone knows where the issues and problems lie, but we haven't had a degree of co-operation and collaboration previously to be able to solve that. I think that is changing.

"We are talking to World Rugby and we are talking to the Southern Hemisphere almost daily at the moment, which is a good thing.

"We all want them to survive this, and they are slightly more exposed than us because they are at the very start of their season."

Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, has a silver lining for rugby. Photo / Getty
Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, has a silver lining for rugby. Photo / Getty

Sweeney is adamant significant changes are inventible, and the upcoming restructure for global rugby union will rid of past predicaments that have plagued the sport, such as maintaining revenue generation.

"What this crisis has highlighted is the fault lines that exist in the global game," he explained.

"It would make no sense to come out of this and just carry on as before. We are looking at things now in terms of all bets are off, and a blank sheet of paper.


"How do we work together so we come out of this with a much stronger international game, a more rationalised calendar, that makes more sense to the fans and makes more sense to the commercial partners. How do we come out of it so everyone can benefit?

"Maybe that is optimistic, but I really do believe that coming out of this, you will see a different structure and a different shape."