How the coronavirus pandemic has affected rugby league

Like all sports, rugby league is currently attempting to get to grips with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Postponements have hit across the board and here the PA news agency looks in detail at the impact.

What has definitely been cancelled?

Ralph Rimmer File Photo
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer is hoping all the competitions survive (Anthony Devlin/PA)

At the current time, no event has been cancelled but it is very early in the season. Super League is seven rounds in (although some clubs were already behind due to postponements for other reasons), the NRL shut down after two weeks and the Challenge Cup is at the last-16 stage.

Which events have been postponed and until when?

Super League played on while the majority of other sports shut down but eventually bowed to the inevitable by calling a halt on March 15. The Rugby Football League also postponed fixtures in the Championship, League 1 and the community game up to April 3 but that is a nominal date and will be extended. The Challenge Cup is due to resume on the weekend of April 4-5 but will be put on ice. The NRL was almost the last man standing but, after playing matches behind closed doors at the weekend, took the decision on Monday to shut down indefinitely.

What is likely to go soon?

Australia v England – Rugby League World Cup – Final – Suncorp Stadium
The Kangaroos tour, due to take place in October and November, is likely to become victim to an extension of the domestics seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres (Gregg Porteous/PA)

With both Super League and the NRL seasons likely to run over, any extension will impact on the international window and the eagerly-awaited first Kangaroos tour since 2003 will become the biggest casualty, especially if the Australians decide to move the State of Origin Series to after the end of the domestic season. Big calls will also have to be made about viability of the Magic Weekend (for Super League clubs) and the Summer Bash (for Championship teams) as well as the 1895 Cup (for non-Super League clubs).

Is anything likely to remain on in 2020?

Sport Review of the Year 2019
Organisers will be all they can to ensure the Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford goes ahead (Martin Rickett/PA)

Super League may need to remove the loop fixtures to ease congestion but the Challenge Cup final and Grand Final will be played if at all possible, perhaps on re-scheduled dates. The Cup final was brought forward to July 18 this year because Wembley was due to host Euro 2020 so in theory could be push back to its original August date but the availability of Old Trafford for the Grand Final is more complicated because of the Premier League season.

Where does the sport go from here?

"We have demonstrated on many an occasion that we are a resilient sport and we will do that again."

Rugby Football League CEO Ralph Rimmer provides an update on how the sport is dealing with Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/ZkhWlwp2Ks

— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) March 17, 2020

There seems little doubt that when rugby league eventually returns it will look very different. The majority of Super League clubs look sufficiently well equipped to survive – Salford Red Devils are thought to be the most vulnerable – but it would be no surprise if the crisis claims one or two of the smaller, part-time clubs in the Championship and League 1. One of the big questions is whether the league will persist with promotion and relegation or put everything on hold for 12 months.

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