Players union chief Damian Hopley has grave fears about the Gallagher Premiership’s grand ambition to finish out the remainder of this season and still start the 2020/21 campaign as scheduled on September 12.
The English season’s showpiece final is still scheduled to take place at Twickenham on June 20. However, with nine regular-season rounds off matches still to be played along with the semi-finals, there are fears that midweek matches will be played despite regulations guaranteeing a minimum five-day turnaround between games.
There could be trouble ahead. https://t.co/0TUOVBCK7v
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 25, 2020
If there are no midweek matches, the likelihood is that the 2019/20 season will carry on much later into the summer and reduce the agreed twelve-week break that is supposed to exist between seasons.
Either way, it is set to generate anxiety about player welfare and Rugby Players’ Association boss Hopley is concerned about the potential damage this might do.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Hopley said: “While we understand we are in some pretty catastrophic circumstances, we fully expect to be consulted and involved in what a hybrid season structure may look like.
“It needs to be a joined-up collaboration so we are doing the right thing. If you put player welfare first then the commercial will flow from that, not the other way around. We have battled very hard in the new season structure to secure a twelve-week period for absolute rest, active rest and then preparation for the season.
“This has to be about working in collaboration because the world is changing so quickly. But that is not the same as giving up on the principles around player welfare that we have worked so hard to establish.
“This is not about the players rolling over, this is about the players taking a really responsible approach not only to the clubs’ futures but to their own futures.
“Every player we have spoken to recognises there is a bigger picture at play here. We all understand and accept the principle of what they are asking, we are just trying to get a lot more certainty about what the practice looks like.
“We want 13 Premiership clubs (including Newcastle) which are vibrant and financially sustainable rather than eight. There is a necessity of all employees accepting some responsibility.
“Our take is that there is enough common sense around the game to ensure that no unnecessary demands will be made of players, particularly when we have worked so hard to create a strong welfare culture.
“If there is any hint that player welfare is being reduced to a token gesture then everyone will be reminded of the edicts that player welfare is the real No1 priority.”
WATCH: Billy Vunipola chats to Jim Hamilton in the latest episode of The Lockdown, the new RugbyPass series
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now