We need to do everything to stop the spread of coronavirus and our sport could have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks.
We’re all aware that parts of Europe are in total lockdown and France is one of the worst affected places, with 1,784 cases at the time of writing.
As a result, Saturday’s game between Catalans Dragons and Leeds Rhinos will be played behind closed doors at the Stade Gilbert Brutus and given what’s happening, it’s a decision that has received support.
I’m not qualified to comment on the rights and wrongs of this, but is this really the best way forward?
Fans, particularly season-tickets holders, are missing out here and the club’s won’t benefit either, with the Dragons taking a huge financial hit on one of their best attended home games of the year.
There is talk rugby league games in England will soon be played behind closed doors too and this just doesn’t sit right with me at all.
“We do our jobs for the people. If they can’t come it would make no sense without them,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said yesterday.
Although his team could afford to play a full season behind closed doors, Pep has it right.
Sport is about the fans and without them, well, it’s nothing.
Rugby league doesn’t have football money, should some of our ‘lesser’ clubs lose their biggest attended home games of the season, the results could be catastrophic.
We can’t adopt the attitude of playing games just to fulfil the fixture list at this moment in time, because we will short-change everyone in the sport.
The clubs, the players and the fans all need to be considered and if games can either be played behind closed doors or not at all, then, for the moment, we should opt for the latter.
Yes, if there is a month with no rugby league, there needs to be a contingency plan in place.
Four ‘extra’ weeks in the calendar would need to be created while ensuring we don’t run the players into the ground.
There are solutions, such as playing league games alongside the Challenge Cup, especially in the latter rounds, when most teams are eliminated.
Yes, Challenge Cup Final weekend is normally a standalone fixture but, for one year only, this would have to change.
Midweek fixtures should be carefully implemented and we would have no choice but to push the Grand Final back.
It is currently scheduled for October 10th with the first international Ashes series between England and Australia on October 31st.
We have a two-week gap there that would need to be filled and as for all it is a vital series to promote the sport, it’s not the World Cup.
Depending on approval from Manchester United, pushing the Grand Final back a week or two would create fixture space earlier in the month.
Similar changes would have to be implemented in the Championship and League One, with even more care taken with these decisions given the part-time nature of most clubs.
Yes, if the virus continues over a long period, play in empty stadiums, but for now let’s just postpone games and suspend the season if necessary.
Rugby league is nothing without the fans and we have to give them every opportunity attend games, whether that’s now or in six months’ time.