Clubs reluctant to play games behind closed doors

A number of clubs have objected to the idea of playing games behind closed doors.

League Express understands a number of Super League clubs are strongly against the idea of resuming the season without live crowds due to the impact it would have on matchday revenue.

The notion of playing behind closed doors has been raised to ensure fixtures can resume as soon as possible. With quarantine measures set to be phased out gradually by the government, it’s likely that clubs will be able to stage games before mass gatherings are permitted, meaning fans would not be able to attend.

But a number of clubs have expressed their distaste with that arrangement because of the financial repercussions.

Concerns have been raised primarily by clubs who own their own grounds who, as a result, would miss out on vital revenue streams. St Helens and Castleford are just two clubs who would like to avoid playing in front of empty stadiums, given their additional revenue streams that come from owning their own grounds.

There are also concerns that playing games behind closed doors would leave season-ticket holders out of pocket, who may ask for refunds on money already accounted for.

However, the clubs need to fulfil their broadcast deal with Sky, which provides £40 million a year to the game.

That money, or part of it, could be lost if the sport cannot fulfil its obligations, which would come as a huge blow to many clubs depending on that money to pay the bills. Sky would be able to broadcast games behind closed doors, and would inevitably hope for a spike in viewing figures if fans couldn’t attend in person.

Beyond that, there is a desire to resume the season as soon as possible to ease scheduling issues, which are already logistically challenging, as well as the strain on players set to face short turnarounds in order to complete the season. Delaying the season resumption would only pose further problems.

It’s understood the RFL have advised clubs of a plan to canvas opinion regarding options of how the resumption of the season could look. One suggestion has been to live stream games behind a paywall, which would provide a means of bringing in much-needed money.