Coronavirus wrap: World Rugby struggling to plan for sport’s return
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont admits planning the return of international competition is difficult with countries experiencing varying stages of the coronavirus pandemic and holding different strategies.
The summer tour season in July looks set to be wiped out and the Scottish Rugby Union recently admitted there was “developing uncertainty” over the fate of their November Test schedule at BT Murrayfield.
The Guinness Six Nations is unfinished while the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship is due to take place in August and September, but the fate of domestic leagues and European competitions is also uncertain.
Beaumont pledged to get straight to work on dealing with the coronavirus crisis after being re-elected for a second four-year term but he added: “We don’t know when we are going to come out of it. Some countries are coming out of it quicker than others.
“We still have to plan the international games, the domestic games, and already you can see there is difference of opinions from country to country whereby last week the French government said there would be no sport played at all until September 1, and in the UK there is still a desire to get some club games started before then.
“So you can imagine what that is like for us when we are trying to put international matches together.
“Everything at the moment is scenario planning: what if, what if, what if.
“You don’t know if there’s going to be any inter-hemisphere travel at all this year. You don’t know whether you can start behind closed doors, we don’t know when that will be. That will vary from country to country.
“It’s extremely difficult to put a marker down and say we will start now and conclude competitions.”
As Beaumont alluded, the UK Government has held talks with sporting bodies such as the Premier League in a bid to get sport back up and running as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. A best-case scenario date of June 8 is understood to have been earmarked for England’s top-flight football to return at neutral venues.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish made the case for football’s swift return if deemed appropriate, arguing it would boost the nation’s finances and mental health, plus help define new ways of working for other industries.
Parish wrote in the Sunday Times: “I believe that just as Formula One is often the precursor to developments that become standard in general road vehicles, so Premier League football with its physical science, medical infrastructures and resources for looking after its people, can begin to define how the ‘new normal’ might look for a lot of working environments.
“Not only that, in our country and beyond, people need to find ways to move forward mentally, to experience some small relief from the worries of this crisis. In my view a story here and a conversation there about the game last night will not trivialise loss or suffering but offer a tiny respite from it for many people. Football is meaningless – but it is magnificently meaningless. It has the power to lighten lives; why not see if we can use that power again?”