Restarting season, health and safety, and the need to include Catalans and Toronto discussed by Robert Elstone on Golden Point vodcast
By Jenna Brooks – Rugby League reporter
Last Updated: 06/05/20 8:55pm
Like all sports around the world, rugby league is eager to get back underway as soon as it’s safe to do so. The big question is, when will that be?
The decision will ultimately come down to government advice, but Super League chief executive Robert Elstone is targeting July.
“All our thinking is about getting restarted and getting this season completed,” Elstone told the Golden Point Daily vodcast.
“At the moment, we are hopeful that it will be July, but I just think, this thing feels to me like it’s changing all the time.
“The mantra coming out of football is ‘we have to complete our season’, and that’s very much our mantra right now. We are absolutely focused on getting going as soon as we can and fulfilling the most meaningful fixture list.”
‘Health and safety is the priority’
The Super League boss admitted the game’s priority is the health and safety of the players, staff and wider community.
“There is also the prioritisation of our NHS and care homes that whatever we do can’t compromise that in any way,” Elstone added.
“I’m sure we will have to invest in testing, we will have to spend money making sure we have safe environments and our players are safe.
“Lack of money is the biggest obstacle for Super League, with the competition having struggled enormously since the lockdown.”
Elstone: Government funding not destined for players
On Friday, the RFL secured a £16m emergency loan from the government that will be used primarily to help clubs survive these challenging times.
Like most sports, players and staff across the competition have agreed to a series of wage cuts to help clubs stay afloat in these difficult times.
However, it is believed that there is unrest among some players, with a number of them wanting to be paid in full once the game resumes.
But Elstone insisted the loan will be used as a way to compensate clubs for projected income they wouldn’t be receiving due to cancelled games or games played behind closed doors.
It will not be used to boost players’ wages.
“It’s a request for funding that has been based on an estimate of what that loss might be,” said Elstone.
Before making any rash decisions, the Super League CEO has urged players to consider the future of the sport, and quickly disregarded the potential of a strike if players don’t receive their full wages once the season resumes.
“I have no idea if there is reality in a strike. That does nobody any good,” he insisted.
“I would say the solution is one that has to be collaborative, that everybody in the game has to share in some of the pain that’s being felt.
“Myself, and my colleagues, the RFL, club executives are all taking reductions in pay and everybody is going to have to do that.
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“One of the big liabilities – and absolutely rightly so – is players’ wages. So the owners are going to have to look and deal with that on a local basis.
“It’s critical that we keep the players engaged, we keep the players with us. I’ve said this from day one that this sport is 100 per cent about the players that go and do this every week and I’ve got nothing but total respect for them in that context.”
Catalans and Toronto needed for successful season
When the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced last month that there would be no sporting events – even those played behind closed doors – until at least September, Super League was faced with yet another obstacle.
If the Catalans Dragons are to remain in the competition, they will be forced to relocate to England, which would be a costly exercise.
Elstone admitted that if Super League is to complete a meaningful season, then the game will have to find a way to financially help the French team make the move.
“I had a conversation with Catalans yesterday and they have started to budget for that eventuality,” he said.
“If we want a calendar that works, a calendar that plays out well on TV and a calendar that leads to a decent crescendo and a Grand Final, then we need Catalans and Toronto in it, so we are going to have to find a way to do that.”
Super League relegation unlikely
The other big question many are asking is about relegation. Given the disruption of the season, should it be scrapped this year?
Elstone revealed that the 2020 season, when it does resume, will look extremely different to what was expected at the start of the year.
“I think essentially it makes it appear to me, even at this stage, that relegation from Super League is not going to be a fair and equitable proposition for Super League clubs,” he said.
“It wouldn’t feel right to do that and I think if we’re not there yet, it seems very likely to me that we will arrive at that point in the near future.
“That clearly has a knock-on into promotion. My belief very strongly is if all those conditions and uncertainties and compromise applies to Super League, such that it’s unrealistic and unfair to relegate, then for me, that has to be mirrored into the Championship.
“So against that very same backdrop it would feel, to me, unreasonable and unfair to promote a team into Super League in 2021.”
Source : Sky Sports