Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s Chief Regulatory Officer, has defended Rugby League against the critics who have questioned why so many matches have been postponed this season because of Covid outbreaks, particularly at Super League clubs.
Last Thursday the scheduled match between Warrington Wolves and the Catalans Dragons was postponed on the day of the game, when four members of the Dragons’ essential staff tested positive for Covid-19 – three of them on the morning of he game, shortly before the squad had been due to fly to England.
The game had been due to be broadcast by Sky Sports, but the decision to postpone came too late to allow Sky to switch its broadcast operation to Headingley, where Leeds Rhinos were facing Huddersfield Giants.
With the football season having recently begun, some observers have been frustrated by the fact that Rugby League has seemingly had a higher proportion of postponed matches than that code.
“Our testing regimes for Covid are broadly comparable with football’s Premier League and rugby union and they are approved by Public Health England,” explained Moorhouse.
“Our season was uniquely impacted by the Delta variant of the virus.
“The top 20 places in the country that have been affected by the variant are dominated by Rugby League towns and cities, so it’s not surprising that this is reflected in the sporting clubs in those communities.
“Our players are part of their communities, perhaps more so than Olympic athletes or Premier League footballers, who can wrap themselves in cotton wool bubbles.
“Our players have roles in their communities, such as having their children in schools, and so inevitably some will come into contact with the virus.”
And Moorhouse insists that the RFL is keen to encourage as many players as possible to be vaccinated against the virus.
“The new rules on double-vaccinated individuals will ease the situation and players will be able to take advantage of that rule, although at this moment most players probably haven’t had time to have had both vaccinations, but when they do it will be massively beneficial for everyone.
“We will be reviewing in the off-season how our regulations will be amended, but currently we are on about the fifteenth iteration of our rules.
“This is a significant disease, which impacts different people in different ways with really serious health implications. We’ll do everything we can to mitigate its impact.
“But if you step back and look at the wider impact of Covid, we are not so significantly out of line with any other sport. I am really proud of our systems and processes as they impact on player welfare and I believe the regulations currently in place are right for our sport.”
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