Powell insists rugby league clubs cannot afford to play behind closed doors if coronavirus spread intensifies

Castleford coach Daryl Powell has suggested it is ‘hugely unrealistic’ to expect rugby league clubs to play behind closed doors for a prolonged period should the spread of coronavirus intensity as it could cause significant financial damage for the sport’s clubs.

The British sporting calendar could yet be dramatically altered by COVID-19, with rugby league no exception. As things stand, this weekend’s games are set to go ahead as scheduled with fans in attendance, but the coming weeks could see games played behind closed doors: or even postponed.

With a busy calendar in the sport, the prospect of delaying the season by a number of weeks could lead to a logistical nightmare: but Powell believes that is a far better idea than having clubs risk their financial security by playing in front of empty terraces.

“It’s unrealistic to expect games behind closed doors across the board,” he said. “That’s hugely unrealistic in fact, so we have to find a different way. Maybe the old winter season, where we played all the year through.

“For all rugby league clubs it wouldn’t be a great picture. We don’t know where it’s going to go to in this country, and I wouldn’t have an answer. That’s a really tough question, but for the health of clubs, the paying public are pretty important obviously. Rugby league clubs aren’t awash with money and football is in a better position in that regard.”

Powell has insisted that it is still business as usual at the Tigers for now, but continued: “There would need to be some serious thought put into what is done because financially, football can cop it but rugby league can’t. There must be some serious thinking going on behind closed doors, for want of a better phrase.

“It’s a tough situation and everyone has to come up with contingency plans. If it gets worse they might be extreme, I don’t know, but there needs to be real thought put into it.

“We’ve no issues yet. It’s a serious issue around the world so I think that people are starting to take it seriously now. It’s a tough one, looking at Catalans versus Leeds on Saturday, sport in general is being affected now. It hasn’t affected us yet but obviously everyone is aware of it.”