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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. These are challenging times but the team at the Yorkshire Evening Post need your support more than ever in the weeks ahead.

While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you. In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you - wherever possible and providing it is safe for you to do so - to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Inevitably falling advertising revenues will start to have an impact on local newspapers and the way we continue to work during this period of uncertainty. So the support of our readers has never been more important as we try to make sure that we keep you connected with the city you live in during this time. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. We need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

Our team of trusted reporters are working incredibly hard behind the scenes- from kitchen tables and spare bedrooms - to look at how we can do this and your continued support to the YEP will help to protect its viability in the days and weeks ahead.

For more details on our subscription offers please visit, email [email protected] or call us on 0330 4033004

Thank you

Laura Collins