IT seems ludicrous to be writing about sport in the midst of what is a global emergency, but sport is a very important part of many people’s lives and rugby union, rugby league and football, for instance, are major industries in their own right.

With mass gatherings rightly banned, the predictions of doom for rugby and football’s professional clubs will not be wide of the mark. There will also be a great deal of pain for rugby’s grassroots clubs, especially those in Scotland which are struggling to keep up their numbers.

Sports clubs and organisations of all sorts need money now to keep going and while the UK and Scottish Governments will correctly devote their resources to saving lives and just keeping things going, sport and, for that matter, cultural organisations need a bailout just to stay in business.

Covid-19 is a temporary problem. There will be a vaccine next year and though there is huge pain coming, we will eventually be able to get back to some sort of normality, though there must be wholesale changes for the better in the new normal.

So how does rugby and other sports survive until then?

Rugby can show the way. I have to applaud the Scottish Rugby Union – they are words I thought I’d never write – for setting up the hardship fund to help clubs in dire straits.

Okay, £500,000 isn’t a huge sum in the face of such disastrous events, but it’s a start and the SRU have at least got off their backside and done something, unlike other governing bodies I could name.

The funny thing is that if you consider what is needed, there is actually a source of massive immediate amounts of cash for rugby, football and indeed all sports.

It’s not the Magic Money Tree but the National Lottery.

Here is what should happen: The UK Government should pass a law to set up a sport and culture emergency fund to last for, say, one year. For the next 12 months, 40p in every £1 raised by the Lottery for good causes should go into that fund.

The original intention at the time the Lottery was established was that the majority of money raised would go towards sport and culture. Other uses such as heritage, millennium and Big Lottery grants came along later. I am suggesting that for a year, we switch the Lottery’s riches to emergency bailouts.

There is money available now. As of March last year, the National Lottery Distribution Fund was sitting on £277m of cash waiting to be allocated. It won’t be much less now. The UK Government also takes around £860m a year in Lottery duty.

Each week a minimum of £12m is raised for sport and the arts as they get 40 per cent of the Lottery funds raised for good causes. There are existing commitments to support sport and culture and these should be maintained, but no new capital projects should be financed at this

time and all possible Lottery cash should be devoted to keeping existing organisations going – and that includes rugby clubs.

The unallocated cash, plus the Treasury waiving its duty and the weekly proceeds from the Lottery for sport and the arts should be put into the emergency fund, the aim of which should be to keep sports clubs and cultural centres and groups operating until the damned virus subsides.

Using these three sources of Lottery cash, a fund worth £1bn could be created over the next year, and that is without diverting Lottery money from the other good causes such as heritage projects or taking away existing Lottery support for charities.

(Oh and by the way, why doesn’t somebody like the Disasters Emergency Committee not co-ordinate an overarching appeal for aid to charities in the UK as the virus starts to kill and damage the elderly in particular? Shouldn’t charity begin at home this year?)

The sport and culture emergency fund would be a temporary measure and could work by clubs applying for bailout loans which could be paid back when, say, matches actually happen or the season starts again.

Individual athletes could also benefit to tide them over until their sport is up and running again.

We really do have a national crisis, so it is up to the leaders of our sports’ governing bodies and our political leaders to take drastic action to help those sporting industries which are undoubtedly going to suffer in the weeks and months ahead.

The beauty of this plan is that nobody hurts, except the Treasury which the Chancellor says will be paying for everything anyway.

We all know the pain and anguish that was caused when just one Scottish football club, albeit it a biggie, went bust in 2012.

Using the National Lottery, the government could help stop that situation recurring on a bigger scale, as it seems set to do.

The SRU have shown the way forward. Let’s use the National Lottery to keep sport and culture going through an emergency hardship fund.