British and Irish Lions make decision on Rugby Australia's offer to host 2021 tour
Rugby Australia’s [RA] audacious bid to host the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour against the Springboks has been turned down.
The Lions board rejected the audacious bid made by the Australian governing body in January to stage the three-test series against the Springboks as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in South Africa, as well as in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
As part of the bid, RA pledged to have capacity crowds available at the test matches, but, after meeting on Friday, the Lions board determined holding the tour in Australia would be unviable as RA couldn’t meet the minimum financial requirements, as reported by RugbyPass earlier this week.
However, no decision has yet been made on where the tour should be played.
The two leading options, should the tour go ahead, would be to either hold the tour in South Africa as originally planned, or have the Springboks play the Lions in the UK and Ireland.
Both options would almost certainly mean fans wouldn’t be able to attend the series, but hosting an inbound Lions tour is the most lucrative possibility, provided the UK Government is willing to underwrite fixtures in the UK and Ireland.
According to the Daily Mail, the UK Government are “reluctant” to do so because “they cannot afford to commit without an insurance package, which would cover the risk of lost revenue due to further crowd restrictions.”
With the loss of revenue that would come with playing the tour behind closed doors, another alternative is to postpone the tour until 2022 in the hope that the threat posed COVID-19 has alleviated to allow fan attendance.
That would, however, severely impact the preparations of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland in their preparations for the 2023 World Cup as each of those nations would lose their best players to the Lions a year out from the tournament in France.
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