Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom has warned that without fans English professional rugby is in grave danger of going bust.
The cash-starved sport was hoping Chancellor Rishi Sunak would throw it a financial lifeline in his House of Commons speech yesterday.
Instead Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Where it can we will expect the top tiers of professional sport to look at ways in which it can support itself, with the government focusing on those most in need.”
Tom described restrictions brought on by the second wave as “a disaster for Premiership Rugby and all the clubs involved”, adding: “Nobody will be able to sustain this.”
His comments came as the Rugby Football Union decreed that no rugby below Championship level will be played before Jan 2021 “at the earliest”.
Tom added: “Adjustments have been made to players’ salaries and other cuts have been made, but if we have to go another six to nine months like this, it will be absolutely devastating.
“I believe Premiership clubs will go out of business. The whole of the Premiership would be threatened.
“Certain clubs have a different structure in the shape of an owner with lots and lots of money. But for the rest, these are brutal times.”
Both Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union have applied for government bailouts.
English rugby’s second tier Championship fear their league won’t even start as clubs won’t be able to afford it.
“I’m very worried about what the future for English professional rugby is,” added Tom.
Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has indicated support will be offered, but rugby needs to know what and how much – and fast.