The uncertainty and financial pressure caused by the shutdown of all rugby is already prompting concern, with Northampton revealing that five of their employees are now self-isolating amid rising anxiety about multimillion-pound losses should the Premiership fail to restart this season.
The Saints chief executive, Mark Darbon, said one player, one backroom staff member and three non-performance staff members were now self-isolating, although none have yet tested positive for coronavirus. The playing squad have all been stood down for three weeks and supplied with borrowed gym equipment to allow them to work on their fitness at home.
As yet talk of redundancies remains premature but Darbon acknowledged the potentially severe financial implications of a prolonged hiatus “is right at the top of our minds” following the suspension of the league for a minimum of five weeks.
“Where things become really challenging for us is if we begin to lose matches,” said Darbon. “We make between £300,000-£400,000 out of each game and have four home games remaining this season before you think about the implications on our wider business. It’s a huge concern.We are a loss-making club so a significant hit is a real challenge.
“There is a shared ambition to get our competition completed. Our strong preference is to get things finished this year and move on to the next one without damaging that too.”
With concerts and other big events scheduled for Franklin’s Gardens this summer and some clubs unable to stage home matches in July and August, however, it will be difficult to prolong the season beyond the end of June, when playing contracts are also due to expire. Darbon said: “I would be lying if I said I didn’t think there were a lot of questions for us to answer going forward.”
Meanwhile in South Africa it has emerged that Pieter-Steph du Toit, World Rugby’s current player of the year, almost had to have a leg amputated after suffering a seemingly innocuous injury playing for the Stormers last month. Luckily for the 27-year-old Springbok loose forward, the Stormers’ team doctor Jason Suter suspected that a haematoma suffered by the player had developed into acute compartment syndrome which blocks the supply of blood to the leg.
Suter told SA Rugby magazine: “They’re incredibly rare cases. If you don’t pick it up early and treat it the patient could lose their leg.
“Within 15 minutes of him coming off the field and us assessing him, we realised he was at risk of this particular condition. He was operated on that night and they had to cut through the muscle to release the pressure.”
Suter’s quick thinking was praised by the Stormers’ head coach, John Dobson. “Doc deserves a lot of credit,” said Dobson. “It would have been devastating for Pieter-Steph and the game as a whole for a player to lose his leg.”