If any PRO14 rugby goes head in Ireland prior to September, it is likely to be behind closed doors. Reports suggest the Irish government will ban all gatherings over 5,000 people until September. The Irish Times report that the decision was made at a cabinet meeting yesterday (Tuesday, 22nd) and will see no licenses for gathering above that size granted by local authorities.
That would likely put pay to any designs by the PRO14 to host matches on Irish soil, or at the very least it would mean limiting the amount of people able to attend to 4,500 or less.
A limited attendance would create it’s own problems for sides, with Leinster’s season ticket contingent alone accounting for a number over double that limit.
Similar noises coming from the Scottish authorities suggest that the PRO14 could face an up-hill battle to restart the current season there too. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned sports fans on Monday not to expect action to resume any time soon and even cast doubt on the feasibility of playing matches behind closed doors.
Last week PRO14 chief executive Martin Anayi said he was “really confident” that the organisation could complete the current season. Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill also wants to complete the season but says that – unlike in England and France – the competition face cross border road-blocks.
“It’s more complicated in the PRO14 than it is in England and France. It’s going to be hard in the very short term because you look at South Africa and Italy, there are going to be issues coming and going from there. Even in the UK it’s going to be difficult to go and visit teams in other countries.
“I’m sure the PRO14 are looking at every way to try and get some sort of conclusion to the season.
“We all hope that in some way shape or form we can have a conclusion to the season because a lot of hard work has gone in from everyone.
“But we are guessing whether we are going to be allowed to have public gatherings or even play behind closed doors.”
There is also the issue of South Africa’s domestic competition, which is set to include PRO14 sides – the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings. That competition is mooted to start in coming months, but could challenge the participation in any return of the PRO14 for both sides.
RugbyPass, additional reporting PA
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