World Rugby is coming to a halt as stated by global politicians throughout this month, we are in the midst of unprecedented times. The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has had an impact on all nations and everyday life as we know it.
Sport no different to other industries in preventing virus
Elite athletes are no more immune to catching the virus than anyone else. Basketball players, footballers, and no doubt rugby players have either caught Coronavirus or been placed in self-isolation having displayed symptoms of it. To stop its rapid spread, governments and governing bodies have been forced to make some incredibly tough decisions.
That is why participation sport (as we know it) is effectively on hold for the foreseeable future.
Postponed rugby fixtures to be played at later date
Super Rugby, the Six Nations, and other governing unions have done the unpopular; but right thing. It was a surprise that it took the WRU so long to come to its senses in postponing last week’s Wales vs Scotland match.
With all other final round games called off (earlier in the week), it was clear that this match should not and would not have been allowed to go ahead.
To wait until the Friday afternoon of a Saturday game was strange but, once the postponement was confirmed there were little complaints from either camps. One wonders what the agenda of the WRU was;
- A reluctance to cancel due to the loss of revenues that would have been generated from the game? The WRU are heavily reliant on the substantial matchday income earned on international weekends.
- Were they not taking the dangers of the Coronvirus seriously enough?
- A need to complete their full complement of fixtures now? They would then be free from the uncertainty that surrounds not only this tournament but rugby in general right now.
Disruption and uncertainty are affecting everyone right now – World Rugby is not alone. With all competitive fixtures paused until further notice when will the 2019/20 season actually end?
2020 World Rugby calendar now in question
In the Gallagher Premiership, Exeter Chiefs are sitting on top by a margin of five points. Is it fair to award them the league now with nine games and the play-offs still to be played? For Exeter themselves, this would feel incomplete and somewhat tainted.
It would be no better than awarding them the titles won by Saracens during their period of financial doping. The Chiefs (players and coaches) want to get to a Twickenham final and win that match, fair and square.
The planned summer tours of the home nations to the southern hemisphere will likely be canceled. There is no space for them in the remainder of the rugby calendar. The only possible space is when the autumn internationals (with the southern hemisphere traveling north) are due to take place.
Note: the Welsh Rugby Union still envisions the tour to proceed [at time of publishing].
Form and momentum lost through Covid-19 Lock down
The impact on the form teams right now is that momentum is lost. For England, France, Toulouse, Exeter, how will they regain that when rugby resumes. We saw this in 2001 after the ‘Foot & Mouth’ outbreak put a premature end to that year Six Nations. When the tournament resumed in September, Grand Slam chasing England came unstuck against Ireland in a game, if played five months earlier, they probably would have won.
For players in camp or in isolation, the big challenge will be in keeping up their match fitness and intensity. This will be all the more difficult if they can’t train with each other.
Commercial impacts of enforced Coronavirus break
For player’s clubs and unions, the impact will also be a commercial and financial one. With no games on there will be no TV money from Sky or BT which will affect everyone’s ‘bottom line’. Matchday revenues (now lost) have been accrued into the finances of every team. Alongside sponsorship and television money, this is the main source of income for clubs and international unions. We’re already seeing the knock-on effects.
Six Gallagher Premiership clubs have this week announced pay cuts to all staff effective from April 1. The likelihood is that clubs like any other sectors of the economy right now will be forced to start sacking employees soon.
No industry or person is immune to the effects of this current pandemic. World Rugby to is, therefore, going to continue to be affected for the rest of the year. Health rather than business must take priority right now and so all won’t complain about 2019/20, the season that never was.
“Main photo credit”