Rugby season officially over as RFU consider implications of that decision plus coronavirus
- Credit: PA
The Rugby Football Union has ended the current season in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement they said they are “working through the implications” of what that means as well as vowing to work on a range of options to support clubs.
Welwyn will be one of those clubs waiting for that announcement, expected in mid-April, as they sit second from bottom of the London Two North West division and in one of the two relegation spaces.
Another will be St Albans who are second from top of the Herts Middlesex Division One table and in line for promotion as it stands.
The statement from the RFU said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19 as well as recent flooding events, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community.
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“In order to provide clarity and to assist with immediate and longer term planning, we are announcing the end of the 2019-20 rugby season for all league, cup and county rugby in England.
“The only exception to this is the Gallagher Premiership who we are in active discussions with to review possible best next steps.
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“When the current government advice on social distancing measures changes, we will naturally encourage rugby training and friendlies to recommence.
“I would like to personally thank everyone for their swift actions in suspending rugby activity. This is not an easy time and I know many of you will have concerns that go beyond the game.
“We are working through the implications of ending the season early and have instigated a thorough process to ensure fair and balanced outcomes for the game. We will communicate these outcomes by the middle of April.
“While we would like to provide all the answers now, we need some time to get it right for the best interests of the game.
“Rest assured we are working on this as a priority and we will continue to send weekly updates to clubs.”
They also said they had three areas of focus, grouped under the headings of welfare, implications and reboot.
The welfare option is offering support and recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy using individual training programmes while also talking to the government about how best they can deploy and mobilise the union’s own resources across England to support the vulnerable.
That welfare will change to a reboot scenario before the start of the new season, with the RFU saying they would work with the counties to “support clubs, competition organisers and the wider rugby community in preparing to re-start rugby in what is likely to be a challenging environment”.
Under the implications banner they said: “Every union is different, with unique structures and challenges and the RFU needs to manage its own particular complexities.
“Our business model is similar to most rugby clubs. We earn revenue from events on and off the field and we invest that back into the game.
“We benefit from strong Twickenham Stadium revenues but we are also exposed if there is widespread cancellation of games and events.
“In this extraordinary situation we are working through a range of potential financial scenarios dependent mainly on the length of this crisis.
“This was already budgeted to be a loss-making year within a four-year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign and only hosting two home Six Nations games.
“The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the entire country.
“There may well also be much longer term financial implications which we are assessing now.
“It is therefore taking us some time to develop a considered position on how we can support clubs and the rugby community, which we will do.
“We have already undertaken financial measures to safeguard the business enabling us to review all options and programmes to provide support for clubs in these difficult times.
“We welcome the measures announced by the government which could provide crucial support to professional and community clubs and the RFU.
“We are in regular contact with Sport England and the Sport and Recreation Alliance to understand how business rate relief and hardship funds can be accessed by clubs and will be providing assistance to make sure every club who is eligible will be supported.
“The implications for all areas of rugby will be thoroughly worked through and solutions discussed and developed with the clubs.”
They added: “In recent days we have all been inspired by the many stories across the rugby family working together to support those who are the most vulnerable in their community.
“This encapsulates the unique spirt of rugby.
“I am confident that this spirit and resilience during these tough times will ensure we will come through this together and emerge stronger.”