TOP tiers of professional sport will be expected to find ways to support themselves where possible during the Covid-19 pandemic, the sports minister has said.

Nigel Huddleston told MPs the Government’s focus will be helping “those most in need” within the sporting world, as he confirmed discussions with sports governing bodies are ongoing about further assistance.

He also said he could not give “definitive timescales” for reopening events to spectators, while no mention of provisions for sport were made in a package of measures Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out today, although discussions over emergency funding only began on Tuesday.

Warrington Wolves chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick has already highlighted his concerns to Warrington Guardian this week (see his comments here), stating rugby league 'is on its knees'.

Huddleston’s remarks came after a limited return of fans to grounds next month was paused due to an increase in recorded Covid-19 infections.

The decision has sparked concern throughout all levels of sport, given the importance of matchday revenue to clubs and associations.

Speaking in the Commons, Huddleston said: “We’re having detailed conversations with sport, including football, and we appreciate this latest announcement (banning spectators) will have economic consequences for sport and we had been hoping for the return of spectators that bring in so much income.

“Where it can, we will expect the top tiers of professional sport to look at ways it can support itself, with the Government focusing on those most in need.”

Huddleston said he has asked the governing bodies of spectator sports to provide him with details of any member clubs or associations who are at immediate financial threat.

The owner of Hull FC, Adam Pearson, says clubs in rugby league will “start to die” without specific Government help.

“We definitely need more support,” Pearson told the Daily Politics.

“When the Government came out and said that six months was the new time limit, it’s obviously caused us huge problems.

“People won’t buy season tickets in December 2020 for the 2021 season so there’ll be no money coming into the rugby clubs, it’s completely stopped that.

“We’re not football, we’re not rugby union, we’re in the heartlands and we need some specific help to help us through this.”

Warrington are one of the wealthiest outfits in Super League, thanks to the generosity of their chairman Stuart Middleton and owner Simon Moran, who may have to plough more money into the club despite the financial crisis hitting their own businesses.

“Potentially that may happen,” Wolves CEO Fitzpatrick has further said this week.

“They’ve already committed a seven-figure sum and we need to understand their businesses have been hit big time as well.

“But they’re still standing by the club and we’re very fortunate at Warrington that we have them on our board. I dread to think what we’d be doing without them.

“We’re worried, absolutely, but we’re confident we can come through it.

“The sport is littered with resilient people, we’re in a very difficult position but we will come through it whatever it takes, I think that’s the mentality we’re seeing right across the sport, particularly from the players.

“They’ve got a whatever-it-takes mentality to go on the field and play with new rules that meant the ball is in play a lot longer and the game is a lot faster.

“They’ve done this on three weeks’ preparation on reduced pay. Their commitment has been absolutely superb and needs to be commended and that’s what we need to show off the field as well.”