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Article in Telegraph
Discussion started by lechef , 23 September, 2020 16:14
Article in Telegraph
lechef 23 September, 2020 16:14
Interesting article in yesterdays Telegraph


Saracens left in limbo with Championship clubs questioning feasibility of new season without fans

Chairmen of both Nottingham and Coventry said their clubs would find it "very difficult to play in a competitive league without crowds"
By Charles Richardson and Gavin Mairs, Chief Rugby Union Correspondent 22 September 2020 • 8:12pm
Saracens are preparing for life supposedly in the second tier
Saracens are preparing for life supposedly in the second tier Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Saracens could be left in limbo next season as several Championship clubs warned that they “cannot afford” to start the season without crowds.

As the Prime Minister announced that a return of crowds at live sport would last “perhaps six months”, English rugby’s second tier was preparing itself for a worst-case scenario of no league rugby until March, while certain clubs may be forced to lay off players under a force majeure clause.

Chairmen of both Nottingham and Coventry explained to Telegraph Sport that their respective clubs would find it “very difficult to play in a competitive league without crowds”, but that they still were hopeful of fans returning in some guise before Spring 2021.

“I hope over the next few weeks that we can prove, alongside our local authority, that we could have some form of crowd,” said Alistair Bow, chairman of Nottingham. “We could get 1,000 people socially distanced and stood around the pitch without sitting in the stands. That would help cover the general cost of playing a match.

“Starting in January without a crowd would not be a popular choice for Nottingham.”

His Coventry counterpart, Jon Sharp, added: “We need to make a fundamental decision. Do we say this season is off? And we just forget it and plan for 2021-22 and beyond?

“Clubs from Cornwall: will they be allowed to travel to North Yorkshire, or Jersey? I don’t see that as practical in the current situation.”

Sharp was hopeful, too, that a more nuanced approach to the crowd ban, as well as continued furlough support for clubs, could limit the damage and prevent an “entire structure at the heart of English rugby from disappearing”.

“This should not be one size fits all,” he said. “In the Championship, a club typically attracts a gate of 1,500 people - that does not put the same pressure on local hubs and transportation systems as 10,000 at a Premiership match, or 50,000 in the Premier League.

“The possible extension of the furlough scheme for specific sectors such as ours should be something that the Government is considering, too.”

These are very pertinent issues for Saracens, who are readying themselves for life in England’s second tier despite reaching the semi-finals of the Champions Cup. With speculation rife that they might be accommodated into an expanded Premiership for the 2021-22 season if a Championship start date cannot be reached, director of rugby Mark McCall admitted the uncertainty surrounding the league is “really worrying”.

“Our focus has been on this burst of matches,” says McCall. “We could be done by next Sunday or we could have a final to prepare for, so we will wait and see. We had a plan for a mid-December start in the Championship, but that may have to change.”

Meanwhile, Saracens will have Michael Rhodes available for their Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92 in Paris this weekend after a citing complaint against the flanker was dismissed on Tuesday night.

Rhodes was alleged to have struck Leinster centre Robbie Henshaw with his head in the second minute of Saracens' quarter-final against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday. An independent disciplinary committee decided that Rhodes had, in fact, committed an act of foul play, but it could not be proven to the required standard that contact had been made with Henshaw’s head. The committee therefore concluded that Rhodes did not deserve a red card and the complaint was dismissed.


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