Bradford Bulls coach John Kear says Rugby League’s importance to its communities should be considered amid calls for Government financial support.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced help for all businesses to pay their employees on Friday afternoon in a move that is expected to help Rugby League clubs.
And Kear says that their role within their communities gives them a compelling case for central help.
Kear said: “When I look back to being at Castleford last weekend, there were so many people coming up to me saying they don’t know what they’ll do without Rugby League.
“It’s very important for people and the game is still very, very connected to its local communities.
“It’s vitally important to those communities and to the spirit of those towns.
“It unifies them and gives them something to look forward to and get excited about, which is very important to what’s going on between people’s ears.”
Kear also acknowledges that sacrifices will have to be made once the sport does have a restart date.
He said: “As somebody who has been in the game a long time, I would think that the reserves, Academy and under-16s fixtures that were due to take place while the game has been off will have to be lost.
“You can’t do that in Super League, the Championship and League One because there is prize money and promotion and relegation at stake.
“They need to play to their conclusion. If that means playing until November or December this year then we’ve got to do it.
“Unfortunately for me, as the Wales coach that would mean one of the casualties would be the international games at the end of the season.
“But it is so important for the credibility of the competitions that they are concluded.”
On the Bulls’ own situation at present, Kear added: “We’ve provided players with schedules that include home gym sessions using their own body weight to do exercises.
“Some have been running outside, and on Thursday – if the guidance doesn’t change – we’re going to return in groups of five, complying with Government guidelines.
“They need to have some form of weight training or they will lose their strength and power rapidly.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS owner Derek Beaumont claims that his club is in a strong financial position ahead of the upcoming weeks of uncertainty.
In a detailed statement to supporters, Beaumont explained how the stripping back of its outgoings in 2018 has helped the current situation.
Beaumont said: “The thing at the forefront of everybody’s thoughts is the financial position of the clubs.
“Everybody knows that Rugby League is not a financially affluent sport and depends massively on its stakeholders and in some cases, benefactors.
“The key stakeholders in any club are without doubt the fans and its sponsors.
“There will be threats to clubs, because there is no income and with wages due at the end of the month, there will be some clubs living hand to mouth.
“There will be mixed messages coming from different clubs because they’re all in different positions.
“I just want people to be sure that what’s happening at other clubs isn’t necessarily what’s happening here.
“What I can focus on is our club because I think it’s important to know where we stand and how it affects us.
“We are fortunate to some extent because of what we previously went through and what we learned from that, although this is a completely different set of circumstances.
“Because of what happened and the fact that we completely stripped the club back we are actually cash strong at the moment.
“So our season-ticket money is actually for this season, the same with sponsorship, so nothing is being spent on previous seasons.
“That puts us in a good position, because the money that is there is to look after our players.
“That wouldn’t cover everything over the full course of the season, because there is income that should be coming in on match days that assists that and there is income from me, which was pledged when we set those budgets.
“That will remain from me.
“What’s important is that we all stick together.”
Beaumont also revealed how the club intends to continue training while it can, and that players’ contracts are safe.
He added: “We want to keep our players training.
“I have had a meeting with John Duffy and we want to keep our players mentally healthy as well as physically healthy.
“They need to understand that they’ve got my backing as well as the backing from sponsors and fans.
“Everyone needs to be behind this club to make sure they see it come out at the other side in a strong position ready to resume playing fixtures when we are able so we can continue our challenge for Super League.
“Our players are in a good place. They will continue to train.
“We are different to some other clubs because many of our players are full-time, so we can’t look to reduce what they earn.
“There is a commitment and funds already in place so they need to know they’re in a safe place.”
Last week Centurions halfback Jarrod Sammut received a four-match ban.
The Maltese international was dismissed in his side’s victory over Halifax for a spear tackle on Ed Barber.
Sammut was found guilty of a Grade D charge and will be suspended for four matches.
HALIFAX last week became the first club to publicly confirm that they have asked players and staff to take pay cuts to help them through the uncertain period.
It was part of a ‘business continuity plan’ that the club has activated and includes current and past directors.
Managing director Dave Grayson told TotalRL.com: “Tough times need tough measures.
“We’ve had to ask all the staff, not just players, to take a temporary drop and they have been unanimous in agreeing to do that.
“There is no shame in that – other clubs will roll that out too.
“My style of management is pro-active rather than reactive.
“We’ve put together a business continuity plan and a Coronavirus Action Plan Team.
“That was set up about ten days ago in readiness and I’ve activated that now.
“The action plan team is our top people within this club, so there’s the board of directors, Ian Croad, Sarah Morgan, Steve Bonfield, who is a practising solicitor, he’s our club secretary, Steve Lambert, an ex-director of the club back in the day, is helping too, and Ken Jones.
“On top of that, there are co-opts, Michael Steel, David Durbin, Lee Kenny and Nathan Field, they’re available as well.”
Grayson has pledged to keep Halifax supporters fully informed of any further changes that take place in the coming weeks.
Last week also saw the Shay closed for 12 weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says the club’s players have taken an admirably pragmatic view of the possibility of pay cuts in coming weeks.
Lingard, chief executive Paul Harrison and director John Miller met with a small group of players last week to outline the possible scenarios.
Lingard explained: “There were senior players there as representatives and we put everything we could across to them and answered as many questions as we could.
“There are financial implications for every employee of the club.
“If the money doesn’t come into the club it can’t go out, and the players were very good with that and said they expected something along those lines.
“They accepted that this isn’t the fault of Rugby League or Batley Bulldogs – it’s a national and international issue and every industry will be affected.
“It’s never happened before and we haven’t had to deal with it.
“When there are no games, there are no finances coming into the club and we’re effectively shut down.”
Bulldogs conditioner Paul Royston has sent out fitness plans to the players, which will be adapted as further measures come into place.
Lingard added: “There might only be so much we can do if there is a stricter lockdown.
“People are having to work from home and look at child care, so Rugby League has to take a back seat for a lot of people.
“If we do get told we can start again further down the line then we’ll look at some sort of mini pre-season.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler says the health of the club’s players and their families is at the forefront of any future plans devised by the club.
The Lions joined other clubs in stopping training last week once the RFL formally suspended its competitions.
Littler said: “Our first concern is always the welfare of our players and their families.
“What is happening currently within the world is way bigger than any sport and I am hopeful that by doing the right things we can minimise the impact on those immediately around us.
“We have a very honest playing group who I know will do their utmost to stay fit in preparation for whatever develops.
“Can I ask that everyone involved in our club and sport is supportive of each other in what is set to be a testing time.
“Personally getting ill does not worry me, but we are concerned for the more vulnerable amongst us.
“Please help others wherever you can and be there for each other.
“We feel that by being proactive with our response to this outbreak that we will put ourselves and our playing staff in the strongest position moving forwards. Stay safe.”
Board member Steve Wild has backed the club’s resilient supporters to help the Lions through the period ahead.
He said: “The next few weeks are going to present an enormous challenge to the country as a whole, let alone Rugby League and Swinton Lions, but all we can do in the meantime as a club is to take sensible precautions in line with official advice.
“I’m confident that all of our fans and partners will fully understand the situation and continue to support the club through this unprecedented period of uncertainty.
“If we stick together and show innovation and resolve then we will be in a position to emerge with strength once the situation recovers.
“Historically Swinton supporters have shown time and time again that they come good when times are difficult and I’m sure this occasion will be no different.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS used the lack of live Rugby League in this country to stage a “virtual” clash with Championship rivals Featherstone on Sunday afternoon.
The imaginary game was labelled the Chris Spurr Cup in honour of the centre who previously featured for both clubs, and it was played out on Twitter.
Both clubs named formal 21-man squads, with the Knights including current coach James Ford, former favourites Graham Steadman and Ben Cockayne, and Spurr himself.
Rovers had Zak Hardaker, Brendan Tuuta and Paul Newlove in their squad, with the two mascots Norris the Knight and Percy the Pit Pony included.
York also launched a ‘Virtual Match Day’ at its online shop, allowing Knights fans to support the club financially if they wished to by purchasing items they usually would buy at Bootham Crescent.
The match was live tweeted on both club accounts.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS’ players last week had access to the club’s on-site gym after a specialist company deep-cleaned it.
Coach James Webster explained: “We don’t share the gym with anyone and it was fully sanitised by a company that came in.
“It’s such a huge space that players could stay a long way apart from each other, and some of the boys took stuff away that they can do at home.
“Like everybody else now, we’re not sure how long things are going to be locked down for.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward says life in the capital has begun to change significantly as new measures across the country come into place.
Ward said: “There isn’t the usual buzz of noise and traffic and everything seems to be slowly shutting down.
“Everyone has to do what’s best for their families and we haven’t focused too much on rugby because there are more important things than us missing training for a couple of weeks.
“This is far bigger than rugby and London Broncos, and they’re strange and scary times.
“We’re doing as much as we can at the moment and we know there are a lot of people worse off than we are in London.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Tim Sheens will adapt his squad’s home training sessions as and when directives from the Government change.
Sheens said: “Once the news broke we stopped training straight away and we’re just assessing things now until they change.
“We’ve given the players home stuff to do and have encouraged them to stay healthy.
“A lot of our guys work through the day so it’s a bit different to the full-time professionals; some of them are still doing plenty of manual labour.
“We’re treading water a bit and will follow the game’s instructions and updates.”
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood says players’ own personal circumstances will have to be taken into account in the coming weeks.
Greenwood said: “We’ve given them plans, but it’s a tricky one because every single lad has a different situation.
“Some are working at home, while others are working as usual.
“They might go to a gym that has now been closed, so there isn’t one answer for everybody.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE has been sharing social media videos of its players while France is in lock-down.
The club confirmed they would not be travelling to Dewsbury Rams on Sunday, ahead of the formal RFL suspension of competitions, with French people told to stay indoors.
That has led to members of Sylvain Houles’ squad entertaining themselves, with halfback Stan Robin among the players taking part in the stay-at-home challenge of juggling a toilet roll, with one of his children on his shoulders.
Fullback Mark Kheirallah was also shown carrying out training drills alongside his dog.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston says his playing squad’s training plans will be amended in the coming weeks as the country’s situation changes.
Aston said: “Putting programmes together at the moment is a bit of a minefield.
“And until the powers-that-be are able to tell us what the rest of the season might look like, it makes it more difficult.
“We were sitting down over the weekend to set out a more detailed programme in case we’re not playing for some time.”
OLDHAM have outlined how important its supporters will be to the club in the coming weeks and months.
A Roughyeds statement read: “Our loyal fan base will be vital during this period.
“Your continued support will be critical throughout this period devoid of game-day income and we urge you to continue showing your support whilst we are not playing.
“Everybody associated with the club is going to carry on doing the best we can.”
Oldham are urging fans to join the club lottery scheme, with full details available on their website.
WHITEHAVEN have outlined how the club will operate on a scaled-down model in the coming weeks.
The board has appointed a temporary management committee made-up of some directors and headed by Chairman Tommy Todd.
There will be someone at the Recreation Ground on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 2pm, with the club’s two groundsmen coming in on alternate days.
Todd has circulated his phone numbers and pledged to keep supporters up to date with any other changes as the situation develops.