Catalans’ facing ‘real disaster’ due to Coronavirus says Guasch

Catalans Dragons President Bernard Guasch (pictured) says his club is facing a “real disaster” after it became Super League’s first victim of the Coronavirus outbreak.
As the game’s first side to forfeit a home fixture because of the virus, the Dragons are at the forefront of what is likely to come for fellow professional clubs and Guasch said he has real fears for the future of the sport.
Leeds Rhinos were due to travel to Perpignan for Saturday’s Round Seven clash against the Dragons, but they decided not to fly out when a squad member reported symptoms of the virus, although he later tested negative.
The game had been scheduled to be played behind closed doors because of a decision by the French government to ban all crowds of over 1,000. That ban has now been extended to assemblies of over 100 people.
“It’s a real disaster,” said Guasch.
“The Leeds game has cost a fortune and we are expecting to have to refund people for tickets for the next home game against Toronto.
“We live day to day and we try to deal with it but every day we get a little closer to the end of the month and we have to settle with players, staff and other costs. It is a very uncomfortable position.”
The Dragons have previously benefited from a benevolent President, a former Rugby League player and wealthy owner of a meat processing business. But as the full force of measures to combat Coronavirus take their toll, the Dragons supremo is feeling the heat.
Early estimates of the financial costs of the Leeds (and likely Toronto) postponements are around £250,000. On top of this, a decision to close schools in France plus the expected mass closure of cafés and restaurants this week is hitting Guasch hard. His company, Guasch Viandes, supplies schools and businesses in the region and he is one of the first to feel the financial hit of the virus.
Catalans coach Steve McNamara admitted he was concerned for the financial impact for the club and he said there were further costs ahead for the Dragons as the only overseas club in Super League.
He told League Express: “Obviously, we are paying the price this week for the cancellation of the Leeds fixture but we book flights and hotels months in advance for our away fixtures. These are already paid for and it’s a massive concern for the club in so many different ways.
“It’s very expensive to run a professional sports club with players and staff wages plus all the other associated costs. These costs need to be met every month and when there is no income coming in I’m not sure how that gets fixed up.
“All clubs are in the same boat but of course some are more financially viable than others. The bigger clubs may have more resources but for the smaller clubs, based in working class areas, which rely solely upon supporters coming through the gates, it is going to be extremely difficult. As for us, we face unique costs because of our location in the south of France.
“We have taken a massive financial hit by losing the Leeds game and probably our next home match against Toronto. On top of that are the costs we have already outlaid for future flights and accommodation. Any changes to the fixtures mean that we will have to pay again for alternative travel plans. It is a massive burden for the club.”
McNamara said he was taking one day at a time, awaiting news on future fixtures and trying to keep his playing squad at peak fitness. He said: “There’s nothing you can do about it, we’re already a couple of games behind with the Wakefield match being hit by the weather and the postponement for the World Club Challenge but this now has taken it to another level.
“We speak to the players all of the time to keep them up to date on the latest developments but all we can do as a playing group is keep going, keep training until we’re told not to. We’ve got to keep ourselves ready for the next game which we hope will be next week.
“We replicate the schedule of our normal week until we are told to do otherwise. We’ve got a game lined up at Wigan next Sunday and we are preparing and planning for that.
“I have no idea how things will progress over the next few weeks, I don’t know what the answer is. We’re all looking at a way forward but because it is continually evolving and changing from hour to hour it’s tough. Things are happening so fast it is difficult to make any firm plans.”
In other news from Perpignan, Salford Red Devils prop forward Gil Dudson will join the Dragons for the 2021 season.