Premiership Rugby chiefs have admitted that London Irish are still sorting out where their delayed Gallagher Premiership fixtures will be played as their new home at Brentford is not ready to stage matches.
Premiership Rugby are confident that Irish will be able to find a temporary home but the uncertainty clouded Friday’s confirmation of the dates for the final nine rounds of the interrupted regular season that returns with Harlequins hosting Sale Sharks on Friday, August 14 – ironically at one of the potential temporary ‘homes’ for the Irish.
Darren Childs, Premiership Rugby’s chief executive, tried to play down the problems faced by the Irish who are no longer able to play at the Madejski Stadium in Reading after signing an agreement to share with Brentford Football Club at the new 17,200 capacity community stadium in West London.
Childs, whose handling of his CEO role has been far from impressive with the administrator opting for a low profile approach amid the Covid-19 pandemic, claimed that he “didn’t know the specific details” of the Irish situation which has them pencilled in to first host Northampton on August 22 before welcoming Saracens eight days later.
He added: “London Irish are in that transition period from the Madejski over to Brentford and this (restart) falls between that. The unplanned consequences of that we are working hard to sort out.”
This would be brilliant!https://t.co/wxHlYGfmcs
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 9, 2020
There was more detail from Jan Gooze-Zijl, the Premiership’s chief financial operating officer. He explained: “This is a pretty unusual time. London Irish do have to leave the Madejski Stadium and there are a couple of options which are available to them. We hope to confirm that in the next couple of days. We think we have a solution to that.”
Under the new fixture schedule, which sees mid-week matches used to try and ensure the competition is completed in time for the play-off semi-finals and then the Premiership final at Twickenham on October 24, teams will have to play three games in eight days.
They will also have to deal with the on-going testing for the virus which saw ten positive tests – six players – from the first round of testing last Monday. Meanwhile Leicester city, home to the Tigers, is currently under lockdown due to the number of positive cases.
Childs added: “I’m cautiously optimistic we are going to emerge from the worst of these horrors of Covid-19 which have had a massive impact on society and sport. We are all working around the clock to make sure we can get back safely.
“We are also focussed on the financial stability of the league and the clubs. With the rugby calendar squeezing us into just eight weekends it was inevitable we would be forced into midweek matches. It was absolutely critical to us we could deliver sporting integrity of the league.
“It does mean we will have to play a very small number of midweek games. We have agreed there will be a minimum turn around for midweek games of four days to give the players as much rest as possible.
“Every club is on board and totally supportive of the schedule. Many other leagues have cancelled rounds and we have found a way of doing it safely and that is a great result for the league.”
Childs believed the ten positive tests for coronavirus were “in line with expectation”, claiming that Premiership Rugby had “put in one of the most rigorous testing regimes in elite sport and it has taken us some time”
'As it stands a lot of guys on June 30 are going to be unemployed' @topsy_ojo talks the brutal reality of contracts, @LiRFC , their new stadium and how he's transitioning to life after the game, with @heagneyl ??https://t.co/PjrB41nuTu
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 7, 2020
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now