PRO14 have given rugby-starved fans some grounds for optimism
PRO14 boss Martin Anayi has expressed optimism that the 2019/20 season can be brought to an on-pitch conclusion in some shape, way or form once the coronavirus pandemic has peaked. The Guinness-sponsored tournament was the first across the globe to go into hibernation, its organisers indefinitely suspending its campaign before the French, England and Super Rugby competitions and cancelling its showpiece June final in Cardiff.
With five countries involved in the 14-team tournament, it was felt the PRO14 would be far tougher than the one-country Top 14 and Gallagher Premiership to restart. However, CEO Anayi has revealed multiple scenarios are being considered and he is hopeful there will eventually be some action.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Anayi said: “If you’d asked me that question a few weeks ago we just didn’t have as much as we have now, but we have had presentations from World Rugby, EPCR, and the medical advice is that there is going to be a phased relaxation of rules around lockdowns and social distancing.
“We should be planning for every eventuality but it’s looking like July/August/September being the kind of window that rugby can resume in one shape or form. That might mean initially behind closed doors and then, depending on the testing, some form of release on the amount of people allowed into a stadium.
“After talking to us, Brett Gosper (World Rugby chief executive) was on the phone to the NFL and the Bundesliga for example, and other sports facing similar challenges… it’s definitely a jigsaw puzzle but everyone is right on it now, all the best practice of how we return to play.
“Everything from technology, testing, health and safety of the players and staff has to be thought about, and we have to make sure we don’t commit to something that we can’t then deliver.
“The most important thing is that it’s got to be safe. That’s number one. But all indicators are that we will get back to playing, presumably for a period of time behind closed doors, and in July/August.
“We just need to be as flexible as possible and at the moment, what we understand from our medical advisors is that it will be possible to deliver 100 per cent on next season.”
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