The RFU has spelled out plans to cut a quarter of its workforce ©Getty Images

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced plans to cut a quarter of its workforce and says it will take up to five years to recover from the financial impact of COVID-19.

England's governing body for rugby union has proposed removing 139 jobs from its total workforce of 580.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said a consultation process with staff will be launched and decisions will be announced at the end of August.

Sweeney had said in May that the organisation could face a revenue hit of £85 million ($106 million/€94.1 million) if the autumn internationals were held without fans, or £107 million ($134 million/€118.9 million) if cancelled outright.

COVID-19 has already caused an abrupt halt to the Six Nations tournament, with the last round of matches still to be played.

England are due to play autumn internationals against New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia at Twickenham on consecutive weekends in November.

Sweeney, along with other RFU executives, has taken a pay cut of more than 25 per cent since the financial impact became clear within the organisation.

"As you will be aware the long-term financial challenges are significant for the whole economy," he said.

"We, like many rugby clubs, rely on revenue from matches and events at Twickenham Stadium and we re-invest this revenue back into the game.

England's men's national team made the final of the 2019 World Cup where they lost to South Africa ©Getty Images
England's men's national team made the final of the 2019 World Cup where they lost to South Africa ©Getty Images

"Our detailed scenario modelling shows there may be a short-term impact of £107 million in lost revenues and we also know there will be a much longer-term effect.

"We are projecting a four to five year recovery with cumulative revenue reductions of around 20 per cent.

"We have already made some significant cost savings.

"We furloughed 60 per cent of our organisation, implemented a three-month pay reduction which has been extended for some, introduced pension pauses and refined business planning and introduced stadium and office running efficiencies to reduce costs.

"Unfortunately, this is not enough to run a sustainable operation and safeguard our future.

"We need to maintain our organisation for the long-term, this is not a short-term cost reduction exercise, the RFU will still stand, but the impact of COVID-19 will continue to affect us for many years to come."

From the 2018-2019 season, the RFU posted revenues of £213.2 million ($267.2 million/€236.9 million), an increase of nearly 25 per cent on the previous year.