OLDHAM Rugby League Club chairman Chris Hamilton has welcomed news of the Government's £16million loan to support rugby league and has also lauded the RFL's leadership during the Covid-19 crisis.

The whole sport has worked hard collectively to demonstrate the impact rugby league has on the fabric of its local communities – and the Government's recognition of that was a key factor in the decision to give the sport a cash boost to help see it through the worldwide financial crisis.

One of rugby league's longest-serving club chiefs, spanning 22 years, and a former RFL president, Hamilton said: "Without doubt this is exceptional news for the sport in unprecedented times.

"Potentially it could be a lifesaver for clubs in the three professional divisions.

"Ralph Rimmer, his executive team and the RFL board deserve enormous credit for the stirring leadership they have demonstrated since day one of this crisis.

"Not only that, they have now secured this additional help from government at a time when we are desperately trying to keep clubs in business.

"The importance of clubs to their local communities, which reaches far beyond match days, has clearly resonated with our nation's leaders and it also underlines the significant role clubs like Oldham play as part of the town's fabric.

"As the first and possibly the only sport to gain such additional support the RFL can pride itself on a momentous achievement and one of which everybody connected with the game – our club in particular – should be very proud.

"This is not a cure-all solution though and we must all be on alert to make sure we come out of this pandemic in as strong a position as possible."

All Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs are eligible to apply for funding.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “The RFL is grateful to the Government for understanding and acting on the case for the whole sport.

“In these very tough times for the country and huge demands on Government, this is confirmation of why rugby league is important – our USP – the sport’s significant social impact in northern communities in particular.

“Rugby league is not a wealthy sport but is rich in the things that matter most – outstanding sporting and life chances in often disadvantaged communities.

"The effects of lockdown at the start of our season genuinely threatened the survival of our clubs at all levels and their ability to continue delivering those positive social and economic impacts.

“This support has been achieved as a result of the whole sport working together; a credit to all the clubs, and to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rugby League and many other supporters of our sport.

"It enables the sport to survive, to reshape and to be ready to restart in this our 125th year. And to look to a home World Cup next year and a legacy for our communities.

“Watching and playing sport together, including rugby league, has a role to play in the nation’s recovery. We are part of that national sporting landscape.

"In the meantime, we continue to work at the heart of our communities, helping wherever we can.”