Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer has admitted that not all of the sport’s professional clubs may make it through 2020 intact, before suggesting that the game needs to “re-shape” and take a “long hard look” at itself.
The future of the sport remains hugely uncertain, despite a £16 million Government loan and the resumption of the Super League season. Any failure to complete that and honour broadcast commitments to Sky Sports could result in a huge financial loss that may cripple the game.
And Rimmer conceded last week: “It’s going to be very testing, and I can’t say with hand on heart that they will all make it through.
“Clubs will need to see what they can achieve. There’s a lot of pressure and some may not be able to rise to it.
“We need to be here to make sure the majority get through; we’re supporting every one of them the best we can, but we are not responsible for every club and every business.”
Rimmer claimed there is a need for the sport to change, as it celebrated its 125th anniversary over the weekend.
He said: “We will look different from 2021 onwards and we’ll try emerge fitter and faster.”
“The Government loans came in with many degrees attached but a good review of how we might look in the future was a part of that.
“That money, as welcome as it was, still needs to be used prudently and that will only happen if we have a good hard look at ourselves.
“There are many challenges ahead and no doubt plenty of disruption, but we’ll be judged on what we look like in 2022. We need to look at the shapes and there is some re-shaping for clubs and for ourselves at the RFL in all of this too.”
Rimmer was also asked about the prospect of a crowd being in attendance for the Challenge Cup Final. Robert Elstone declared in the run-up to Super League returning that he had hopes of a 60,000-crowd at Old Trafford for the Grand Final, but Rimmer was typically far coyer about the Challenge Cup Final, which is scheduled to be played on Saturday 17 October, over a month before the Super League Grand Final.
“I think the restrictions upon us will beat our expectations by some way on that,” he said.
“My vision is to deliver broadcast deals and deliver the competitions, and celebrate them too. We’ll put them on and do justice to them, whether it’s the Grand Final or the Cup Final.
“If we get through this season, complete broadcast schedules and we’ve a sport delivered for 2021, that gives us a platform to move forward. I wouldn’t project a 50,000-crowd as my vision for Old Trafford or the Cup Final just yet, though.”
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