Sheffield Eagles general manager Liam Claffey says that player welfare must be at the forefront of any decision to restart the season.
Claffey has also defended the RFL against criticism that it is taking too long to make a decision.
Claffey said: “There are frustrations in some quarters that a decision has not been made yet, but I do understand why, especially with the rapidly changing landscape.
“At one stage it looked as if no professional sport would take place in France until September, but now they’ve announced sport can take place in front of crowds of up to 5,000.
“Things are fluid, so there is a school of thought that we could be jumping the gun if a decision was made.
“However, we are in limbo. We need to put together our budgets for 2021 and we can’t do that until we know what if any capital needs to be sent on a potential 2020 season inclusive of testing and additional training costs for example.
“All of our players our part-time.
“I appreciate that at other clubs they run different models that are full-time, part-time or a hybrid of the two, but all our squad have jobs outside of Rugby League.
“Some have said that their employers would not want them to be training or playing and it’s quite rightly a big concern for them and us a club.
“What the legalities are around employers enforcing that on their players are difficult to say at this stage, but no-one would want to be risking their livelihoods.
“As the guidelines stand, players would have to opt in to playing and training.
“Would they all do that? I’m not sure if it jeopardised their other work and we certainly wouldn’t coerce any of them into doing so.
“What if a team could not fulfil a fixture due to not having a full side or a team being unfairly disadvantaged as some of their key players chose not to play?
“That would certainly call into question the legitimacy and integrity of a competition.
“We’ve always been one for short-termism in Rugby League and there are reasons for that. But we need to be looking at 2021 and 2022 onwards with the new broadcast deal.
“It’s a difficult situation with so many questions and there is no one-fit decision that will please all.
“The RFL are doing their best with a very tricky situation and I certainly don’t envy them, but we believe a decision needs to be made in the next few weeks.”
SWINTON LIONS have confirmed that the current board of directors now hold a significant, controlling stake in the club following constructive talks with the previous owners.
It comes after that group, led by Andy Mazey, formally took over ownership at neighbours Rochdale Hornets.
Lions operations director Steve Wild says it is the dawn of a new era for the club.
Wild said: “Whilst this is a significant and positive step forward for the club, I’d firstly like to place on record my personal thanks for everything that Andy Mazey, Tony Sheridan, John Coyne and Pete Smith did for the club during the period 2017 to 2019.
“Andy came to the club at a very difficult time in our history, and it’s fair to say that by the time they left, albeit suddenly, the club was in a far better place than when they arrived.
“Nobody can ask for more than that, and all four remain personal friends.
“The transfer of shares was a smooth and friendly process, and involved a financial settlement acceptable to both parties.
“But time evolves, and as a club we have to move on and look to the future.
“I feel we have made sure and steady progress as an organisation over the past nine months, despite the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
“But I’m confident that by the time the storm clouds disperse we’ll be in as good a position as any to meet the sport’s future challenges head on.”
The Lions’ board met last week and Wild is now confident they can take the club forward together, with community development as a key focus.
He added: “We have brought onto the new board local business people, a Salford city councillor, a representative of our highly successful Supporters’ Trust, and resourceful people with the club at heart.
“I also want to pay tribute to the incredible loyalty of our fans, who pound for pound are surely the best and most innovative in all three divisions.
“You’ve only got to look at they way they rallied behind the club in 2017, together with the astonishing success of their Pride Builder programme, if ever proof was needed.
“As regards the future, we have a lot of hard work to do, but we are excited as well as optimistic.
“Such is the incredible competitiveness of the Championship that we realise we will effectively have to improve year on year just to stand still.
“That’s no easy task, but it’s one that we embrace.
“We have a tremendous coach and coaching set up, and a group of players who will only get better.
“However, one area where we simply have to up our game is with our community development.
“It’s only by re-launching our Foundation and significantly expanding our community programme that we can hope to expose more people, and especially youngsters, to the Lions’ brand.
“We have a responsibility to the sport of Rugby League as a whole in that respect, not just to Swinton Lions.
“We have therefore recently appointed a director of development in Damian Ridpath, who comes to us with a proven track record in another elite sport, and in his short time at the club he is already driving some significant initiatives forward.
“In summary, we believe that our historic organisation, with a huge city on our doorstep, has enormous potential.
“We will therefore continue diligently with the task in hand, and strive to make the Lions the best club it can possibly be.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS Chairman Jon Flatman says the debate about returning to play should not overshadow the importance of next year for the Championship.
Flatman says he is keen for the competition to return to the field this year if possible, but that it should not be at the expense of what he believes is a pivotal season in 2021.
Flatman said: “Do I want to play again this year? Yes!
“Do I want to play again if it imperils what happens in 2021? No!
“The 2021 season has got to be one of the most important years for the Championship for a long time and the clubs need to be preparing for it.
“There will be a change in landscape once the broadcast deal ends and we need to be in the best possible position in the Championship for 2021 to be a special season.
“We want to play again this year. We exist to play, and for no other reason.
“It will also be a long time between matches if we don’t.
“But we understand that there are a multitude of different factors at stake and each club’s position is different.
“The role of the governing body is to make decisions in the best interest of the sport.
“There will be concerns about not playing again, and concerns about playing, because that’s the nature of the situation.
“There are moving parts that are changing all the time.
“What will be, will be and there is no perfect solution.
“But we will get through this, and when we do we don’t have to come out of it where we went into it.”
At the Knights, Flatman says the club is stepping up its recruitment and retention campaign foe 2021.
He added: “We’re working through those options as we speak.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of high-quality players that have approached the club about coming here next year.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive Davide Longo says the club remains hopeful of a return to action in 2020 – but it must be safe.
Longo and chairman Mark Campbell were involved in Thursday’s conference call, which has resulted in clubs being sent a survey to outline their own individual stances ahead of a July 6 RFL board meeting.
In a club statement, Rovers insist it is important that the survey results are kept separate for Championship and League One, with both having different situations.
It added that the returning to play remains Featherstone’s “absolute priority”, but that recent events concerning Melbourne Storm and tennis star Novak Djokovic “highlight that the sport should only return when it is in the best possible position to ensure the safety of all players and staff”.
Longo said: “Although all club officials are becoming frustrated with the current situation, it’s imperative that a potential return to play is done safely and all risks are managed through professional consultation and thorough planning.
“The situation is extremely fluid at the moment and a few more weeks may allow for an improved position for clubs with reduced measures in place and a return of supporters into stadiums.“
The statement followed one from Campbell earlier in week in which he claimed there is a lack of desire from the RFL to restart the Championship in 2020 – and that estimated costs for testing were being inflated.
Campbell wrote: “It is disappointing then to read the statement from the RFL regarding the testing costs for each club would be in the region of £5,000 per week.
“I am confused and concerned as to where they have estimated these figures from, as we have researched our own costs which aren’t close to this figure.
“We have also estimated that it could cost substantially more for us as a club to operate without the season getting back underway.
“It is also worth noting that there are numerous testing stations throughout Yorkshire that are running at below 10 percent capacity at this current moment in time, this raises the question as to why would we even have to pay for these tests?
“I am concerned that the RFL are scaremongering with these estimated costs and procedures to suit whatever resolution they decide on with the Championship not fulfilling the 2020 season.
“We want the RFL to act in the best interests of all of its clubs, fans and sponsors and we hope they ensure we have the best possible chance of fulfilling our season.”
WIDNES VIKINGS’ popular head of commercial Dave Rolt has left the club to set up his own business with the best wishes and thanks of chief executive Phil Finney.
Rolt has had a long association with the Vikings that dates back beyond his employment at the club, and he was seen as a key figure in fund-raising efforts to save them last year.
Finney said: “Dave’s title was head of commercial but he did so much more than that, emceeing on match days, hosted our Members’ Mondays nights and much more.
“He has also been a big character in and around the office and will definitely be missed.
“It’s a shame he’s decided to move on and set up a business for himself, and he had been doing a bit of consultancy while he was part-time at the club after we came out of Super League.
“Hopefully we will be able to re-engage him on some projects with the club moving forward, and while it’s sad to see him move on, we wish him all the best and hope to see him again soon.”
Finney was the Vikings’ representative at last Thursday’s meetings of clubs and the RFL, and insists a “pragmatic” approach must be taken over the decision on whether or not to resume playing this year.
Finney added: “My own personal point of view is that we have to do what’s right for the long-term health of the game.
“That’s got to be the most overriding and most decisive factor.
“Looking at the stage three policy for playing behind closed doors, it’s a very, very complex piece of work and a complex undertaking to adhere to those guidelines.
“The concern from our point of view is that as a sport if our actions caused any spike in cases of Covid, then it would be very damaging.
“I understand people’s financial situation but we have to be very pragmatic about the situation.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS reiterated their desire to do everything possible to try and restart the Championship meeting during last week’s conference call with the RFL.
Centurions owner Derek Beaumont has consistently and publicly outlined his stance to get back onto the field in 2020.
The club was represented at Thursday’s meeting by former coach Neil Jukes, who returned to the Centurions in an off-field role when chief executive Matthew Chantler left in February.
Other clubs supporting the Centurions’ position at the meeting included Featherstone, Newcastle, Halifax and Barrow.
BRADFORD BULLS chief executive Mark Sawyer last week confirmed League Express’ story in last week’s issue that Danny Brough is poised to take up a two year contract to reunite with Kear at Bradford.
Sawyer told the Bradford T&A: “It isn’t necessarily the best financial package for him but he’s really bought into it.
“He wants to come and work with John again.
“He’s given himself the task of getting us back into Super League over the next couple of years.
“Broughy thinks it’s realistic that we can and I know John does.”
DEWSBURY RAMS hooker Sam Day has been running weekly half-marathons during lockdown to raise funds for the NHS.
Day told the Rams’ website: “I always liked running but it is hard training for it with a job and playing rugby also.
“So far I have run eight half-marathons and raised £780 after setting a target of £700, so that’s great.
“The money has gone to the NHS Together charity to help them.”
Readers can donate to Day’s fundraising at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/samuel-day1.
BATLEY BULLDOGS Chairman Kevin Nicholas has pad tribute to the club’s supporters after the Fox Biscuit’s Stadium won the RFL’s World Cup of Stadia vote on social media.
The Mount Pleasant base edged out Oldham’s former home Watersheddings in the final, securing 51.1 per cent of the vote.
Nicholas said: “Thank you to everybody that voted, and over the years a massive thank you to supporters who have chipped in when we’ve had fund raisers for improving the stadium.
“That’s been a great help and all in all it’s been a team effort.
“We’re very proud; it’s a great, historical moment for the club.
OLDHAM utility forward Ed Smith will have surgery on July 11 to repair or replace a torn knee cartilage.
It will involve the knee on which he has had two reconstructions, but the operation is in no way connected to his previous and more serious surgery on the same joint.
Smith said: “At this stage I’m not too sure what will be involved, because it all depends on whether the surgeon can repair the cartilage or whether he will have to remove it. He won’t know until he gets in there.
“I could then face a recovery period of six weeks or maybe longer, all depending on what he finds.”
WHITEHAVEN will have seven players taking part in a walk to raise money and awareness for mental health on Saturday July 11.
A host of players and officials from clubs across West Cumbrian will walk the ‘Five Wainwrights’ to raise funds for the Yewdale Ward at West Cumberland Hospital.
For Haven, Jesse Joe Parker, Karl Dixon, Connor Halliday, Jason Mossop, Glenn Riley, Sam Forrester and Ellis Gillam will all participate.
Haven and rivals Workington, amateur clubs across the region plus the local referees society and two rugby union clubs will all unite behind the cause.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE forward Joe Bretherton says he wants to help the club into Super League after becoming the latest player to commit until the end of 2022.
Bretherton said: “I am grateful to the club for giving me this opportunity and I am really hoping to contribute to Toulouse’s rise to Super League.
“I feel at home in Toulouse now and being part of this project is an honour for me. ”
Olympique President Bernard Sarrazain added: “Joe is still young for his position, which requires a lot of experience, so I am sure he has not finished surprising us.”
HALIFAX have sent their condolences to the family of German Rugby League pioneer Simon Cooper, who was a keen supporter of the club and who died recently after a long illness.
A Fax statement read: “A true Rugby League legend who spread the word outside the game’s traditional heartland.
“A true fighter until the end – thank you for all you did, your legacy is there for all to enjoy.
“Sincere condolences to all of Simon’s family and friends, from all at Halifax RLFC.”
LONDON BRONCOS are set to announce details of a new lottery this week that will benefit the whole sport in the capital.
The initiative will see the club linking with community clubs, with Brixton Bulls tweeting that it will support all levels of the game in London.
The Broncos tweeted: “Next week we will have some exciting news regarding our brand new lottery.
“We are glad that Brixton Bulls will also benefit from this as community partners.”