Tough choices lie ahead as coronavirus stops rugby
World Rugby is at the cross-roads and some tough decisions are going to have to be made about the future of competitions and events in the coming weeks and months.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has seen world sport grind to a halt, including rugby competitions across the globe.
It could be weeks, but more likely months, before any competitions and matches are played again, leaving jobs on the line and millions of rands, dollars, pounds and euros squandered.
The 25th season of Super Rugby is the most recent competition to be suspended, the call being made by Sanzaar after just the seventh round of action at the weekend. Travelling teams have been told to go home, where players and coaches will go into self-isolation for 14 days, a quarantine period first announced by the New Zealand government.
The competition’s immediate future is in doubt, with chief executive Andy Marinos saying yesterday that if the competition doesn’t get going again in five weeks’ time the season will be scrapped, with no winner being crowned.
“You know, if it goes four, five weeks then it’s going to be almost impossible because we don’t have the schedule to do anything further,” Marinos told Newshub.
The consequences of not having a 2020 competition would be massive.
“(If we didn’t get back) it would put us in a very precarious position. That’s why it’s so important to work with our broadcasters and why we’re so determined to see if we can’t get some form of rugby and some kind of structure up in the foreseeable future,” said Marinos.
“Without that revenue, without playing in front of crowds in stadiums, it has a direct impact on the bottom line.”
Before the suspension of Super Rugby, World Rugby had postponed the men’s Sevens events in Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as the women’s Sevens Challenger Series that was due to be played in Stellenbosch on the weekend of March 28 and 29, saying “the health and safety of the participating teams, event staff and spectators is our highest priority”.
The South African Women’s Sevens team were due to compete with teams from Argentina, Belgium, China, Colombia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Poland and Scotland.
SA Rugby also cancelled an Under-20 series featuring the Baby Boks, and teams from Georgia and Argentina which was supposed to take place in South Africa next month. The Baby Boks’ tour of the UK, planned for May, has also been cancelled.
Furthermore, SA Rugby put on hold the Boks’ World Cup trophy visits which had been planned for parts of the country over the coming weeks, while the Pro14 competition, which includes the Cheetahs and Kings, has also been put on hold.
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said the wellness of players, supporters and staff, as well as rugby playing its part in helping to counter the pandemic “is of primary importance”.
“We remain in on-going conversations with statutory health and governmental authorities and will abide by their guidance and instruction,” said the SA Rugby boss.
SA Rugby said it was still too early to make a decision on July’s inbound tour of Georgia and Scotland for Tests against the Boks, as well as the Rugby Championship and SuperSport Challenge Series, which is due to start at the end of April.
Meanwhile, the Bulls and Lions players and management teams, who were in Australia and New Zealand respectively following their round seven Super Rugby matches at the weekend, have arrived back in South Africa, or will be arriving today. They have all been told to go into 14 days of self-isolation.@jacq_west