Super League clubs and RFL to meet over Coronavirus pandemic

Super League clubs will meet with the Rugby Football League on Monday to discuss how the sport will respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

While much of the weekend’s elite sport in Britain was postponed, Super League and Challenge Cup fixtures were played.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said they had “adhered to the guidelines” set out by government in allowing games to go ahead.

There are currently no positive tests for the virus in rugby league, he said.

“At the moment it’s everyone’s prerogative to choose what they want to do but nevertheless the games are on,” Rimmer told BBC Radio 5 live.

“We’ve spoken with government regularly, probably more than once a day, over the last couple of weeks and have ensured we’ve circulated all the directives from the government to the different clubs so they can take measures which minimise the possibility of contagion.

“But until anything changes, we’ll be going forward.”

Two Super League games and seven Challenge Cup fifth-round ties were played across Friday and Sunday, with Leeds’ scheduled trip to Catalans Dragons the only game to be postponed after the Rhinos decided not to travel on Friday when one of their players showed symptoms of the coronavirus but subsequently tested negative.

Rimmer said rugby league would continue to follow government advice and allow games to go on until a point when either mass gatherings are banned, which could be as early as next weekend, or there is a positive test in the sport.

A number of contingency plans would go before Monday’s meeting in case games get called off, he added, aimed at protecting players and the future of clubs.

“What we have done is circulated lots of different modelling to the professional clubs and we’ll be meeting them early this week to talk about what the options may look like in the future,” he said.

“[Playing behind closed doors] is one of them. We have to be realistic about the position that we’re in, nevertheless this sport has shown itself to be resilient over the last 125 years and hopefully we’re going to be very collegiate over the next couple days and find some ways forward. We face a test, as does the rest of the country.

“In any modelling that we do going forward we have to consider player welfare issues, competition integrity issues and keeping the clubs solvent.”

Rimmer said the sport had “to be concerned” about the impact any suspension of fixtures would have on club finances.

“These businesses are built on a model of a certain number of home games played and clearly this disrupts that business model considerably,” he said.

“But there will be a degree of pragmatism required from all involved. We’ve spoken to commercial broadcast partners as we’ve gone, as we have the clubs and Super League and we will have to find a way through it.”

Castleford head coach Daryl Powell told BBC Leeds that postponing games or playing them behind closed doors was not “an option for rugby league”.

“That’s pretty tough and there will need to be some serious thought about what is done,” he said.

“Financially, football can probably cop it but I don’t think rugby league can so there will be some serious thinking going on behind closed doors to see what needs to be done.

“It’s a tough situation and everyone needs to come up with contingency plans and if it gets worse and worse they might be extreme.”

After Leeds opted not to travel to Perpignan for their scheduled game with Catalans, the RFL said in a statement that “consequences of this decision on the match, and any sanction, will be determined by the RFL board”.

Rimmer admitted the club could face punishment but stressed that all mitigating factors would be taken into account.

“It (a sanction) is a possibility,” he said. “We spoke with Leeds at some length this week on that particular issue.

“We’ve applied all the guidelines that the government asked us to observe, and Leeds took a unilateral decision not to travel to that fixture. That will follow due process now.”

One casualty of the coronavirus in rugby league has been the draw for the sixth round of the Challenge Cup.

It was scheduled to be held in New York, to mark plans for a new franchise in the US city to join the competition in 2021.

But it will now take place at MediaCity, in Salford at 18:00 GMT on Monday and be broadcast via the BBC Sport website and app.

The remaining Super League clubs will enter the competition at the sixth-round stage, including holders Warrington Wolves.

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