Harlequins have given a forensic insight into how Gallagher Premiership clubs are taking the first tentative steps towards a return to play with their players arriving in groups of six today to launch the return to play protocol.
Five Quins players have opted not to take part in the opening day training due to personal circumstances but the rest of the squad was allowed to stat training in six strong groups with one hour breaks between groups turning up at the training base in Guilford.
All players have to answer a medical questionnaire before leaving their homes and then wait in the training base car park before being asked to walk to a point where their temperature is taken. Any player who has a temperature over 37.8c will be sent home. The players were today allowed to use weights equipment which they clean after use and the whole area undergoes a deeper clean before the next group arrives. The players are also allowed to train on the pitch while following social distancing.
Billy Millard, the Quins general manager, set out the time scale saying: “We are looking at four weeks for stage one and five to six weeks for stage two which would get the boys in a place to compete.”
Mike Lancaster, the Quins head of medical, revealed that if one of a group of six shows signs of COVID-19 the whole group would then go into isolation for a week. Lancaster is confident the schedule the players are following will get them ready for matches in the middle of August. Testing for COVID-19 will not take place until stage two with Quins preferring it to happen for all clubs at the same time and be centrally organised.
While the players are concentrating on getting fit again, Laurie Dalrymple, the Harlequins CEO, has serious financial problems to solve and revealed the club would support a cut in the £7m salary cap and reducing the number of marquee players who are signed outside the cap limit.
The Premiership clubs will meet later today to discuss a cut in the salary cap and a reduction to just one – from two -marquee players to try an control costs although their plans for a 25 percent cut in player wages to remain in place for the foreseeable future will be opposed by the players’ union.
Both moves have gained majority support amongst the Premiership owners with only Bristol firmly against the current system which allows two players to be signed who are not included in the £7m cap.
Dalrymple also admitted Harlequins were “open to the discussion” of ring-fencing the Premiership to end the threat of relegation which has seen Saracens ejected from the top flight for breaching the salary cap regulations. However, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers Manager Director insisted that creating an untouchable elite in the English game was “not right at the top of the priority list at the moment.”
Dalrymple said: “We would be supporting a restructuring of the cap and it has to be lowered to make the clubs sustainable. I would support a change to the marquee player system and I am optimistic and everyone agrees we want to remain competitive. There is a general consensus that at the moment the system isn’t working.
“It is going to take us longer than we thought to come through this to get to anywhere near the financial income we had. Our forecast is that revenues could be down between 30-50 per cent over the next year and we may have to be in this position for some time.
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