Watch as Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell talks coronavirus, Liam Watts and Oli Holmes

Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell says rugby league clubs could not “financially cop it” if the coronavirus forced all games to be played behind closed doors.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 3:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 5:36 pm

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Leeds Rhinos’ match against Catalans Dragons in Perpignan on Saturday will take place in front of an empty stadium after the French government opted to ban public gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

There has been no directive issued by the RFL or Super League yet regarding other games but there are fears drastic action will soon need to be taken in light of the pandemic.

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Castleford coach Daryl Powell (Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Wednesday’s Premier League game between Manchester City and Arsenal was postponed due to coronavirus fears and today La Liga - the Spanish equivalent - shut down its entire competition for the next fortnight.

Castleford are due to host champions St Helens on Sunday and Powell said: “We've no issues yet.

“It's a serious issue around the world so I think that people are starting to take it seriously now.

“It's a tough one and looking at Catalans versus Leeds on Saturday, sport in general is being affected now.

“It hasn't affected us yet but obviously everyone is aware of it.”

Asked what the solutions could be if games do start being threatened, Powell answered: “I don't think behind closed doors is an option for rugby league.

“I think that would be tough.

“There would need to be some serious thought put into what is done because financially, football can cop it but rugby league can't.

“There must be some serious thinking going on behind closed doors, for want of a better phrase.

“It's a tough situation and everyone has to come up with contingency plans.

“If it gets worse they might be extreme, I don't know, but there needs to be real thought put into it.

“There needs to be a contingency plan in place. It's unrealistic to expect games behind closed doors across the board.

“That's hugely unrealistic in fact, so we have to find a different way.

“Maybe the old winter season, where we played all year through.”

That occurred in 1995 ahead of the advent of Super League and the summer era.

Powell acknowledges the financial strain clubs would be placed under if they had to play in empty stadia.

“For all rugby league clubs it wouldn't be a great picture,” he added.

“We don't know where it's going to go to in this country, and I wouldn't have an answer.

“But for the health of clubs, the paying public are pretty important obviously. “Rugby league clubs aren't awash with money and football is in a better position in that regard.”

Meanwhile, Powell confirmed prop Liam Watts will return for Sunday’s game after missing the 9-8 loss at Warrington Wolves with a finger injury.

Second-row Oli Holmes was hurt in that game and will miss out against Saints but the coach reported the injury is not as bad as first feared and he may only miss a week of action.