No imminent return to action for rugby league

The Rugby Football League has confirmed there will be no resumption of fixtures in the foreseeable future.

The RFL imposed a three-week shutdown for the entire game from March 16 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, following a conference call on Tuesday to update Super League clubs on the latest situation, the governing body acknowledged the suspension will continue indefinitely.

After announcing an initial postponement to April 3, the game’s rulers are keen not to tie themselves to another deadline, particularly after the national lockdown ordered by the Government, as they work out their next step.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “The sensible approach is clearly to continue working on various scenarios while acknowledging the suspension is going to be considerably longer than the three-week period we had initially confirmed.”

Ralph Rimmer File Photo
Ralph Rimmer File Photo

The RFL has circulated clubs with a number of contingency plans and has asked the Government for financial support to help them keep clubs afloat without matchday income.

Rimmer says planning is based on three key elements -trying to keep the clubs solvent, player welfare (asking the players to play four times a week is not feasible) and competition integrity.

“We’ve done a great deal of planning with many different scenarios that have been mapped out,” he said.

“Nevertheless, if we are to find a way through this, everyone has to come to the table and be able to give a little.

“The general approach to that from all the stakeholders is very positive and understanding.”

Flexibility was a theme of the meeting with clubs given various scenarios for a potential restarting point in May and June and the possibility of playing matches behind closed doors in order to fulfil broadcast commitments was aired.

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone said: “Super League and its clubs are working round the clock to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead and to ensure the sport is in the best possible place for when life returns to normal.

“Our priorities are the health of our players and staff and the economic well-being of our clubs.

Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Everton v Swansea City – Goodison Park
Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Everton v Swansea City – Goodison Park

“We welcome the government’s proposals to help businesses, and in partnership with the RFL we are exploring all the options available to us.

“We are also keeping close to all our partners and, in particular, offering all our support to Sky Sports.

“Most of all, we are sticking together and looking out for the health of our families, friends and colleagues.”

The NRL is also shut down due to the global pandemic and an extension to the two domestic seasons would inevitably mean the cancellation of the Kangaroos tour scheduled for October and November.