RFL official hails success of Covid planning

The RFL’s Chief On-field Officer, David Rotheram, has hailed the effectiveness of the governing body’s strategy to restart Rugby League in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, the RFL revealed that from a total of 2,019 tests in the last four weeks, none have tested positive for Covid-19.

Last week, there were 557 tests, all of which returned negative.

“As a responsible governing body, we are risk averse and we don’t want to jeopardise the rest of the season, nor people’s health,” Rotheram told League Express.

” So we had to put a plan in to show we had thought seriously about all the risks. Taking into account the medical and scientific evidence, our proposal went to the clubs before it was approved by the RFL Board.

“Professor Ben Jones and Doctor Gemma Phillips helped us create a risk assessment framework that has been adopted by Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“We have in place a very robust track and trace system in case we turn up a positive test.

“We can trace who that person has had close contact with.

“The clubs complete track and trace assessments after every training session, which is a very robust procedure.

“The fact that we have had no positives shows that all our players and staff have completed education modules on this subject and are following the guidance to ensure they are protected.

“As we have seen in some other sports, clubs such as Aberdeen FC or individuals such as Novak Djokovic, have not been so effective.

“But Rugby League has been good. This will be the fifth week of testing.”

Rotheram is uncertain, however, about the prospect of crowds returning to games.

The government has a five-stage return process for crowds, and we are at stage four. Stage five is with crowds.

“But I’m not sure what will happen in September (when clubs can start hosting games). At the moment Super League and the RFL are working together and this has been a herculean effort by a lot of people.

“The venues themselves have had to put a lot of work in to ensure they are providing a bio-secure environment.”

And Rotheram admits he is unsure whether the recent rule changes, with the abolition of scrums and the six-again rule, are here to stay.

“For the viewers on TV August is a bonanza of Rugby League,” he said.

“But I don’t think we can make any firm assumptions yet. The ball is in play longer and there are more play-the-balls. The layoff has been longer than any pre-season.

The players haven’t trained as they normally would in a pre-season.

“We were tasked with finding a replacement way of bringing the ball back into play. The feedback was to ensure we still used the shot clock with a 30-second countdown.

The three guiding principles are making the game fair, safe and entertaining.

Scrums concentrate twelve people in one part of the field with space to exploit.

“We wondered whether the law change would lead to teams kicking the ball into touch close to the opponents’ tryline, so they could set their defence in an attacking part of the field.”

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