Playing behind closed doors is 'a possibility' RFL chief admits

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer admits there is no ideal solution to the sport’s current crisis.

Friday, 1st May 2020, 5:00 pm
The Jungle staged Super League's last match before the lockdown, when Castleford Tigers beat St Helens on March 15. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Rugby league at all levels has been suspended for more than six weeks, with no return date in sight. Playing some matches behind closed doors is being considered as a way of getting the code back up and running, but Rimmer warned: “The solution at the end of this will not be a perfect one.”

In a media briefing yesterday, he insisted: “It is impossible to satisfy everyone, but everyone has to come to the table and give in order to make it work.”

Rimmer said the RFL are “at the heart” of discussions with government on how sport might resume after the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Wakefield Trinity players and fans celebrate as Huddersfield Giants are beaten at Mobile Rociket Stadium. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“Behind closed doors is an option, but it won’t suit all of our clubs because many are reliant on ticketing income,” he conceded.

“Clearly we want to get on the field as early as possible and it’s part of the nation’s recovery, seeing sport out there, but I can’t deliver something that’s out of my hands at the moment. We do have models in place; we have to keep our clubs solvent, finish with some finals and some blue-riband events and player welfare is a key element of it as well - you can’t concertina four games a week to reach a final with any sort of substance so that responsibility lies with us.”

Rimmer said broadcasters Sky and the BBC have been “fantastically supportive” in discussions over the sport’s return and he confirmed “playing multiple games at single venues in the first instance is a possibility”.

England are due to take on Australia in an Ashes series this autumn, but that has been placed in doubt after the NRL season was extended until late October, just a week before the scheduled first Test. Rimmer said, as things stand, the internationals are still on, but admitted: “I would be naive in the extreme if I wasn’t to say there was some threat to them.

Leeds Rhinos supporters in Emerald Headingley's new North Stand. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“I was speaking with my colleagues in the NRL [on Thursday] and they are under tremendous pressure. They’ve rode their curve out - though all bets are off and nothing is nailed down - and they’re wanting to get their season going, but yes, there is a threat to the Ashes.”

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