Sale owner Simon Orange has written an open letter to supporters explaining the decision taken by the Gallagher Premiership not to bring forward fixtures to fill the void created in the January calendar by the cancellation of two rounds of Champions Cup pool fixtures.

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The Manchester club, who last Friday officially confirmed Alex Sanderson as their new director of rugby following Steve Diamond’s departure, were due to play Edinburgh and Toulon.

With those games cancelled due to political interference from the French government, it left a two-week gap in the schedule.

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Sale forward Josh Beaumont guests on RugbyPass All Access

That sparked initial calls from coaches such as Exeter’s Rob Baxter and Bristol’s Pat Lam to being forward Premiership fixtures in order to keep clubs active. However, that request was knocked back, league officials deciding a fortnight-long circuit breaker was the best for the game in England.  

Explaining the mechanics involved in reaching that Premiership decision, Sale owner Orange told his club’s supporters: “Bringing matches forward was going to be difficult, though not impossible, because of clubs’ own logistics and the broadcast contract and schedule. 

“For it to happen all the clubs would have to agree unanimously and it certainly would not have suited some. It was decided that we should not bring the fixtures forward for the following reasons:

  • We did not need to create any free weeks later in the Premiership season because the round three and four European matches were not going to be rescheduled for a later date;

  • We did not see any benefit in changing/compromising the Premiership competition;

  • It made no sense bringing fixtures forward to a time when the rate of transmission is at its peak;

  • The NHS is close to capacity and it was thought prudent not to add potential greater stress to the system at this time;

  • It made no sense to move fixtures forward to a time when crowds are still not permitted due to lockdown/tier systems;

  • Players and staff had a hectic schedule to complete the 19/20 season plus a very short pre-season, so a two-week break would be good for everyone’s welfare.

These decisions were taken after much discussion. Many other options were debated and, as you will imagine when you have so many interested parties, there were differing opinions. 

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“I’m sure there are many people out there who think they know better and have better solutions but there are also very capable club owners and CEOs and PRL executives involved in the decision-making. 

“As one of those individuals, I believe we have come to the right conclusion and am fully supportive of the outcome. I would also like to thank the owners and CEOs of the other clubs as well as the PRL for their hard work and commitment to these matters.”

Orange also explained the reasoning behind the four/two points split in use in the Premiership for matches that are cancelled. 

“Many alternative ideas were mooted including awarding no points and other point combinations, but it was decided overall this 2/4 system was the fairest to both of the affected clubs and this is what was agreed by the PRL Rugby committee and the owners of all 13 clubs that the PRL represents.”

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