Premiership and European rugby prepares for coronavirus shutdown | Sport

Premiership rugby union fixtures are to be postponed with immediate effect because of the coronavirus outbreak with European competitions set to be mothballed as well. The announcement will be made officially after a series of meetings to debate the best way ahead conclude on Monday.

With the Pro14 and Top 14 having already confirmed the suspension of all games for the foreseeable future, there appears to be little prospect of Premiership fixtures in England resuming before next month at the earliest. Among the range of options to be discussed will be a potential four‑week hiatus but there are those who believe a longer break of 10-12 weeks may ultimately prove more realistic.

In a statement Premiership Rugby indicated no firm conclusions had yet been reached, with nine regular‑season rounds and the play‑offs still remaining to be played. Exeter Chiefs hold a five-point lead at the top of the league, with a number of other clubs bunched together in mid‑table. “The welfare of fans, players and staff is our first concern and it’s crucial to get these important decisions right,” a Premiership Rugby spokesperson said. “We are working closely with our own medical experts, DCMS & Public Health England, and our clubs. That advice will allow us and our clubs to make a well-informed decision in the coming days.”

Club leagues run by the Rugby Football Union are also waiting to see what the immediate future will hold while European Professional Club Rugby is due to hold a conference call on Monday at which the quarter-finals scheduled for 3-5 April will be formally postponed. With cross-border travel increasingly problematic and playing games behind closed doors no longer a realistic option, it is unlikely the semi-finals can be played before the end of May.

Uncertainty also continues to hover over the summer tours due to be undertaken by all the home unions in July. Scottish Rugby is already concerned about the financial knock-on effects of a prolonged shutdown on its smaller clubs and has announced a £500,000 hardship fund to assist grassroots clubs faced with cashflow or financial difficulties.

“These are unprecedented times and we are acutely aware of the significant day‑to‑day financial challenges our member clubs will face in the coming weeks if fixtures cannot be resumed in the mid to long term and other planned fund-raising initiatives are curtailed,” said Scottish Rugby’s chief executive, Mark Dodson.

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