Catalans Dragons are taking desperate measures to ensure they can fulfil their 2020 fixtures and are planning for a return to action at Stade Gilbert Brutus in August.
Super League’s French outpost club was left reeling by a French Government decision to ban all sport until September, but they are hoping to resume home games a month earlier under special rules that would limit attendances to no more than 5,000 people.
The Dragons have also agreed to switch camps to the UK if Super League restarts before then in order to complete as many games as possible before returning to Perpignan.
The club’s Commercial Director Christophe Levy has spoken exclusively to League Express about the crisis measures being taken. He said: “We are seeking confirmation from the French Government that we will be allowed to play Super League games in Perpignan in August.
“This was explained in the details of the Prime Minister’s speech last week, where provision has been made for some sports to go ahead with a maximum attendance of 5,000, which would accommodate all season ticket holders and club sponsors.
“We hope to have this in place for August and then resume normal activities alongside all other sports in September.”
The club will not have any access to the £16 million loan provided to the Rugby Football League by the UK government, but it has taken advantage of a French scheme that is providing financial relief for businesses during the crisis.
Levy added: “Unfortunately, French sport will not get this kind of support from our government, but as a French company we can get the statutory ‘Chomage Partiel’ for all employees, including players, staff and administration, which will provide payments until the end of this month. After that, we have no further assurances.
“Things are changing very quickly, so at this stage it would be unwise to make any further comments on the situation.”
Club President Bernard Guasch (pictured) has already indicated that the Dragons would be open to spending up to two months based in England if Super League was ready to restart in June and July.
He told local media: “If Rugby League is forbidden in France until September, then we will be like Toronto in having to play in England.
“We hope we will be authorised to train again in France in June, but a lot is still unknown about the coronavirus and things can change at any moment.”
Guasch said the Dragons were open to all possibilities, including playing in the UK for an extended period, behind closed doors or at stadia with limited attendances and he was contacting the French Prime Minister’s office for further clarification.
He said the club was under financial pressure but recent seasons had seen significant growth in revenue for the Dragons which should sustain them through the current crisis.
He added: “Of course, if this situation continues then problems would arise, but for now we are in no danger. As soon as we are able to play six or seven games at the Gilbert Brutus this autumn it will save the club.”
Coach Steve McNamara said his squad was prepared to adapt to most scenarios in order to get playing again. He added: “September seems to be the line in the sand for the French government but there are some possibilities that deadline could move and we could play earlier under certain restrictions.
“We have to get more information on whether we can train or not, but we are ready.
“Whatever the season looks like from a coach’s perspective we will find a way to be there.”
Championship side Toulouse Olympique are in exactly the same position under French law, but club officials say they will plead a special case as their season is played in summer and the French ban was directed towards football and rugby union, whose seasons end under normal circumstances during the summer months.
The club issued a statement last week which read: “Further to the official announcement from the French Prime Minister, cancelling the 2019-20 seasons for football and rugby union in France, Toulouse Olympique will liaise with local government representatives to obtain more information about its particular case.
“Until then, no further announcements will be made.”