Rugby Football League officials are optimistic that the preparations for the game’s big day at Wembley on Saturday will not be disrupted by any Covid issues for the four clubs that will take part in the Challenge Cup Final and the 1895 Cup Final that are both scheduled for the national stadium.
With only a few of the 45,000 tickets remaining, the RFL had made contingency plans to put into practice if one of the clubs – St Helens, Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights – had had to pull out with Covid issues, but as things stand (on Monday morning), RFL Operations Director Karen Moorhouse admits that the governing body is past the point of no return in terms of being able to make alternative arrangements.
“We have worked closely with the clubs to ensure they are doubling down on protocols to minimise the risk,” she explained to a media conference on Sunday morning.
“We have done some contingency planning. Had we known by today (about a possible Covid outbreak at one of the competing clubs) we would have brought in one of the losing semi-finalists. But after Sunday that would no longer be possible.”
Both St Helens and Castleford have been going to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure they are safe from Covid in the days leading up to the game, with some players, including Castleford captain Michael Shenton, keeping their children off school this week to minimise the danger of picking up an infection from other members of their families.
Moorhouse also revealed that the RFL has had discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about whether new rules could be brought in that would mean elite sportsmen not having to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive.
“But I don’t think that is something that will happen,” she explained.
“Other industries would also put forward a case about ten-day isolation, for example NHS staff and companies in the food supply chain. Is it more important to have Rugby League games to watch or the food supply chain being maintained?”
The RFL is encouraging all players to become fully vaccinated, despite some players expressing some reluctance, but the governing body is not making it a strict requirement.
“We believe in vaccinations from a player health perspective, but we are not mandating vaccinations,” said Moorhouse.
“I’d encourage any player to speak to their medical staff on vaccinations.”
However, the RFL does not keep central records on which players have been vaccinated.
“The clubs are keeping records, but we don’t have them,” added Moorhouse.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.