RFL advises clubs on coronavirus concerns

The Rugby Football League has sent a detailed document to clubs with advice on the coronavirus, which includes confirmation that they have consulted with Sky Sports about playing games behind closed doors should the virus spread.

COVID-19 has caused a number of other sports across the world to dramatically alter their schedules. Top-flight Italian football will be played behind closed doors for the next month, while a number of other sporting events, possibly including this year’s Olympic Games, could be cancelled.

In an email seen by League Express, the RFL stressed last week that Rugby League was not yet at any such stage of severity, while contingency planning is taking place to minimise the virus’s impact on the season.

The email says: “Working alongside DCMS [the Department for Culture, Media and Sport] we have submitted rough estimations on the impact of any match restrictions or requirement to play matches behind closed doors.

“At this point, this solely included impact on weekly gate and season ticket revenue. We have also spoken with Sky on their potential approach to such a scenario. There may well be further calculations/impacts that we have to submit on behalf of the sport, and which, due to their complexity, may require club input; we will keep you informed.

“We are continuing to do contingency planning for the various possible eventualities (including the possibility that the Government may cancel sporting events or require that they be played behind closed doors).

“If these became a reality, we would of course liaise with any impacted parties including Super League Europe, as well as clubs.”
The RFL also said it is not imposing restrictions on overseas games at present.

“Whilst the French government has imposed a restriction of 5,000 people for indoor gatherings, we understand that there are not currently any restrictions on Catalans Dragons or Toulouse matches,” it said.

Clubs have been encouraged to implement their own contingency plans should staff be unavailable due to contracting the virus, while also suggesting that players change how they greet each other and supporters.

The email says: “Additional considerations – as per a number of sports – and wider guidance in schools etc: greet team-mates, friends etc with a fist bump or a wave, not a handshake, kiss or man hug.

“Waves and fist bumps for fans (rather than high five, hand swipes or handshakes – especially if fans are elderly or have disabilities) – the risks are, of course, extremely small, but this shows consideration for all.

“And selfies rather than taking items for signing is sensible.”