The Rugby Football League’s chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, has conceded the future of many clubs could be under threat after it was unanimously agreed to postpone the season until at least next month.
No rugby league will be played in the UK until 3 April at the earliest after representatives from across the game agreed to halt the season with immediate effect at a meeting in Huddersfield on Monday.
Rimmer admitted that with finances tighter in rugby league than other mainstream sports, clubs are facing a precarious future owing to the virus. “I don’t think we can deny there is a threat to many clubs,” he said. “All of them have different business models but they are based on having a certain amount of home games. There’s a threat, we recognise it, but there’s a bigger picture and we all have to play our part.”
Super League had carried on with its fixtures last weekend, insisting it was following government advice, but with the situation having worsened, the competition’s chief executive, Robert Elstone, conceded all parties within the sport must work together to ensure the sport survives a period of financial uncertainty.
“Super League clearly is aware of the gravity of the situation,” he said. “We’re mindful of the communities in our game and, echoing what Ralph said, now is a period of time where we look at the implications and options. It’s a very fluid situation, which will change day to day, and ourselves and the RFL need to be closely joined in terms of what it means for fixtures and finance, and how we come out of this as healthy as we can.”
With clubs from France and Canada in the competition, Elstone admitted that adds an extra dimension of difficulty when planning how and when the sport resumes. “We’re aware of that and whatever we decide in terms of future fixtures, those two overseas clubs will have a big bearing on what we can and can’t do.
“Most fundamentally, we don’t know when the situation will change for the better, so we have to be very flexible and nimble. There’s a real need for solidarity in the whole sport. Our fans are terrific and we need them now more than ever, just like our partners.”
Elstone said Super League clubs were unanimous in their decision to postpone. One of the sport’s most prominent owners, Wigan’s Ian Lenagan, said the main concern had to be the welfare of everyone involved. “At this time of great uncertainty across the world, our sport’s No 1 priority has to be the safety and wellbeing of everyone within our communities,” he said. “We were party to this decision and fully supportive of the measures decided.
“Whilst the postponement of a large number of fixtures across the competition will present a logistical challenge like we’ve never seen before, we trust everyone connected to both Wigan Warriors and the Super League will understand the reasoning behind this stance.
“Suspending the competition will add an element of certainty to our planning in a period that is otherwise filled with uncertainty. We will now take the appropriate steps to review all of our daily activities, our financial plans and implement a working schedule that ensures maximum protection for those within the club and everyone connected to it.”