Competitive sport can officially get back underway in the UK tomorrow but we’re still no nearer to knowing when the Premiership will return and that has to change soon. Premiership Rugby have dismissed the law trials suggested by World Rugby this week and rightly so in my opinion as they would mean we’d be playing an entirely different sport but the clubs have to reach a consensus soon so everyone knows what the plan is.
You can see that the ideas from World Rugby are based on science and scrapping reset scrums, choke tackles and the like would obviously reduce the amount of time players are in contact with one another but rugby is a contact sport and we should either be ready to return to full rugby or not return at all yet.
Rugby is returning very soon in New Zealand but the rate of infection there is so low now that is much easier to facilitate. Here, it may be a case of players having to accept a certain level of risk or opting out but testing is clearly key.
The Premier League in football has spent £4 million on testing kits and infrastructure and it has been reported that it would cost each Premiership rugby club £20,000 per week.
If that figure is correct, you can see why clubs would think twice when many are facing the prospect of a very tough financial future in the short to medium term and were already losing money but testing will be key to any return to play.
The clubs are meeting behind the scenes and working towards a return but they still don’t seem to be able to agree and they’ll need to do so quickly if we’re going to see the Premiership return soon enough to complete the 2019/20 season.
Rob Baxter has said it’s safer to train than go to the supermarket and most players are probably still going to the shop for food so I think it’s a case of working out what level of risk clubs, and crucially players, are prepared to accept and there will clearly be some risk whatever we do unfortunately.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has said that “it’s only when we get testing, vaccines etc that I think we can be absolutely confident” and he’s right but a vaccine doesn’t look like being available for a while if ever so there’s no chance of waiting for that before getting back underway.
When the Premiership does return, they’ll have had the opportunity to see what the Premier League in football has done in terms of innovation not just in terms of protecting against Coronavirus but also to deal with the issue of the games being behind closed doors.
BT Sport will no doubt have a number of things up their sleeve already and they’ll have been watching the return of the NRL in rugby league this weekend too where artificial crowd noise was used to good effect.
They even went to the trouble of getting crowd noise from specific games at specific stadiums and having certain chants in there as well and I think that does enhance the broadcast experience. It’d definitely improve things if you were trying to do commentary on the game too.
It might be a bit weird for the players but no stranger than playing in front of eery silence. The players won’t need it to help them get up for the game because they’ll be itching to get out there after a break as long as this but it’d certainly help the broadcast.
You can hear a pin drop when you’re kicking at Welford Road but it would be weird if that were the case for the full 80 minutes and I think BT Sport will want some noise to make it feel more atmospheric to viewers at home.
The NRL also offered fans a chance, for a price, to send in their photo to be used as a cardboard cut-out in the empty stadiums. A photo of Dominic Cummings was even spotted in the crowd at one of the games.
I’m not sure if that’s something BT Sport will be adopting but I’ll be ready to send in my photo if they do. It may be the only way I’ll be seen in the stands at Allianz Park anytime soon!
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