McManus praises RFL approach

St Helens Chairman Eamonn McManus says that the RFL and its chief executive Ralph Rimmer deserve praise for the way they have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic to date.

McManus has been a strong critic of the RFL at times in the past and was a key figure in the Super League breakaway last season.

But he says the way that Rimmer has dealt with the crisis, and in particular in compiling the RFL’s case for government aid, warrants credit.

McManus said: “We’re waiting for the outcome of the RFL’s application for government support, and from what I can see Ralph Rimmer and the RFL have done a brilliant job in putting our case forward.

“They identified the likely level of the problem very early in the piece and put together a pretty comprehensive case that we’re waiting for the outcome of.

“I will hold my hands up, given that I’ve been a critic of the RFL in the past on occasions.

“But they have handled this very well throughout.”

Like many clubs, St Helens are now down to a skeleton staff as the sport waits to hear when it can restart again.

McManus said: “We’re getting through it, the same as everybody else.

“The players aren’t at the club; we just have the chief executive and a couple of others working and have buttoned down the hatches to try and get through this financially.

“Like everybody we want to know when the season can restart, but we won’t know that for a little while and we need to hold our nerve and keep clear heads.

“We have to look for government guidance first on the lockdown and then on social distancing.

“When those measures are relaxed we can talk about when we can start restart playing.

“Rugby League is no different to any other sport, with soccer the one that is making the most headlines and news.

“But in many ways we’re more badly affected by it than other sports in that we are at the beginning of our season.

“This would have been much easier to handle if the season finished in May, because we’d only have two months left and then a three-month hiatus anyway.

“We’re more severely affected than other sports because we’ve still got the majority of our season left.”
That included what has historically been a financially rewarding Easter weekend for clubs, with Saints due to have hosted local rivals Wigan on Good Friday.

He said: “It’s the most lucrative fixture in our season by a long way.

“We very much hope that we can still stage this as a home game for St Helens in front of a full house.

“It’s important not just for us financially, but because St Helens-Wigan is very much part of Super League’s brand, with the fixture on TV in front of a big crowd.

“It’s difficult to say exactly how much it is worth to us, with season tickets already sold, but if you factored that in plus hospitality and sponsorship you’d be looking at around £400,000.”
McManus also says that the NRL’s move to restart at the end of May is not comparable with Super League

He added: “They are going to extraordinary levels and over there the TV is everything to them.

“There’s the sheer size of it and the fact that every game is televised, so they need to get back to playing even if it’s behind closed doors.

“But it seems there are different infection rates over there and the virus background seems less severe than it had been here.”