WELSH Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies has warned of the financial impact of the return of action without supporters in the stands.

The sport has been suspended since March with the governing body's competitions for 2019/20 cancelled while the four regions hope to return for derby action in August.

Wales' summer Tests against Japan and New Zealand were postponed and it is a possibility that their four autumn internationals and Six Nations encounters with Scotland, England and Ireland could all be played behind closed doors.

Unlike in New Zealand, the professional game will return before turnstiles are open and the WRU chairman warns that will provide a challenge.

"It is still the case that we do not know when 'normal' business will resume. When Welsh rugby stadia will be full again and when new broadcast and sponsor income can be generated," wrote Davies in the WRU's weekly update.

"The major issue we face is if matches resume 'behind closed doors', this will have repercussions as the majority of costs will be brought into play, yet local revenues such as ticket income and associated match day revenues will not.

"The WRU does not retain profits but re-distributes all funds back to clubs and the professional game, so all aspects of Welsh rugby have been challenged by the current crisis."

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Assessing the impact that coronavirus has had on Welsh rugby, he said: "We are still very much in the eye of this storm and it will not be possible to fully answer this question until that storm subsides.

"But we do know that we generate much of our income from leisure and entertainment spending, whether that be stadium tours, conferences and events or our core business of Welsh professional rugby.

"This entire sector has suffered a cessation of business on a par with the worst hit sectors of industry.

"Since it opened, Principality Stadium has generated billions of pounds for the hotels, restaurants, bars and leisure industry in Wales as well as generating thousands of jobs – the knock-on effect will be widely felt and our pain will unfortunately be shared."

Clubs are waiting for the green light to gradually return to action, although it may be quite some time before there is any serious play.

"When we do return, we know there will be numerous challenges around the resumption of contact sport and we don't know what the attitude of our players, coaches, referees and other volunteers in the community game will be," said Davies.

"It is possible that rugby may return sooner than we are able to open our clubs and the ability to align both aspects in the community game will be key.

"We are of course hugely optimistic that people value social interaction even more than they may have done before lockdown and return to rugby in their droves when they are able to do so. All we can do in the meantime is plan properly for this eventuality and look forward to it.

"The social aspect of rugby is a defining characteristic for our clubs and we are a business built on live experiences, from the community club to a full Principality Stadium.

"We will look for support from government for our efforts to safeguard the future of rugby in Wales, be it rugby within schools or harder to reach communities.

"The positive role of the club game across communities is an essential part of Welsh rugby and it must not be allowed to wither.

"We will continue to need the support of the Government as critical advisers in our plans to return to rugby.

"From health and well-being through to social inclusion, the role of our clubs is vital to Welsh society and for these reasons we will continue to work together to make them more sustainable and even more integral to the communities they serve as the current crisis subsides."