Wayne Rooney recently described footballers in England as ‘guinea pigs’ due to the length of time it took the FA to suspend the season in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Well if footballers are guinea pigs, then what does that make rugby league players? Because while the rest of the sporting world stood still this weekend, we carried on as normal.
We’re not sure what the future holds. The decision to stop the season could have been made already given the news of the four Toronto players self-isolating last night.
But any announcement now is a reactive one in my eyes, with every other sport having already done the responsible thing to protect players, staff and supporters.
The RFL have stated they are following government guidelines, but you can’t help feel it’s a case of being opportunistic by carrying on.
I would imagine the exposure gained from Castleford yesterday made it all worth it, with the game having full national radio and TV coverage. But does this make it right?
This really just doesn’t seem like the right time. We are using a pandemic to get more coverage for the sport.
People are being told to avoid physical contact in the workplace, yet our players, who are employees, are running and grabbing at each other every 15 seconds.
Remi Casty has come out this morning and stated he will not participate in training or any games, even if instructed to do so by his club or the governing body.
While the French prop stated he was not afraid of the virus, he outlined his concerns at catching it and passing it on to more vulnerable family members.
Rooney’s comments in football strongly criticised the FA and UEFA for not acting sooner to postpone games, and it appears Casty has taken it upon himself to do the same in rugby league.
It took the announcement that Mikel Arteta had been diagnosed with coronavirus for all elite football in England, followed by the rest of the UK, to be cancelled.
Other sports were also very quick to act. Tennis shut down until at least the end of April, golf succumbed to player pressure and Formula 1 has been suspended too.
Rooney’s thought process was along the same lines as Casty’s, that the players could be exposed to the virus in a contact sport and pass it on to family.
The fact that the contact in football isn’t even close to the level in rugby league leads you to question the RFL’s stance on this. Has money taken precedence over welfare?
There’s no doubt that if we carry on we’ll get the exposure we’ve craved for years as the armchair viewer yearns for live sport, but this doesn’t make it right.
Whilst I’m no expert on COVID-19, it appears that you can have the virus for a few days before you show any symptoms, so players or fans could be infected without even knowing.
Whilst fit and healthy elite sport stars should only experience a mild cold, it is potentially deadly to their elderly relatives.
The thought that someone could catch this at a game and pass it on surely has to be too much of a risk?
I’m sure players who show symptoms will be tested, but it could possibly be too late.
With Madrid in lockdown, it certainly seems crazy there were thousands from the city in Liverpool four days ago for Atletico’s Champions League clash with the Reds.
The RFL have argued that no player has tested positive yet, but surely its inevitable someone will and what then?
It’s time to do the right thing and announce a four-week postponement of games as they have in other sports.
Leeds thought they had a case on Friday so cancelled their trip to Catalans, thankfully it seems it was a false alarm but it is truly abhorrent that they could face sanctions for doing the right thing.
Ralph Rimmer’s response on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday has received heavy criticism, and rightly so in my eyes.
This virus has killed over 6,000 people worldwide and Kevin Sinfield should be applauded for not endangering the health of the public by boarding that flight.
The whole Toronto team are currently stood down and we now have players refusing to play because of the risk.
Financially we may struggle without playing, but there are ways around that and health is much more important.
The risk outweighs the reward so it’s time for the RFL to do the safe and responsible thing.