The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the state of rugby around the world has left many New Zealand rugby players with a sense of uncertainty over their immediate futures, with some who play overseas not being able to return home.
The coronavirus outbreak, along with the mandatory 14 days of isolation imposed by the New Zealand government over the weekend, has forced competitions like Super Rugby to suspend matches for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, competitions overseas have also been forced into similar measures, with many countries in Europe being some of the worst-affected in the world.
NZ Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) boss Rob Nichol said some Kiwi players have been forced to stay overseas and have not been able to return home because of the pandemic.
“Players aren’t sure whether to come home and go up there or stay or what to do,” Nichol said in an interview with Radio Sport’s D’Arcy Waldegrave.
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“When you talk about players who are up in France, or up in the UK, 48 hours ago a number of the players understood the French competition was obviously on hold, but 48 hours later, they’re effectively in a lock down/curfew situation for the next 40 days. And that happened really quickly. And so they’re all having to adjust to that.
“We had a number of players from Spain contact us and some of them have managed to get on flights home around the 20th of March but a number of them are going to have to stay and ride it out.
“So players around the world, like a lot of people from around the world, are just trying to deal with the pandemic the best way they can.”
Nichol confirmed to the Herald that about 420 players registered with the NZRPA are still overseas.
The players are also bracing for the potential commercial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and how it could affect them.
While the suspension and possible cancellation of competitions like Super Rugby won’t affect the salaries of players in New Zealand, who don’t receive per-match payments or bonuses, Nichol admits that there will be an economic impact on rugby and its players.
“We are really really conscious that this current situation is going to have a commercial impact on the game and we absolutely understand that,” Nichol told the Herald. “We don’t know what that is yet necessarily. And it is a time of uncertainty.
“We have a collective agreement with New Zealand Rugby plus the provincial union that sets out parameters under which we combine our efforts and generate money for the professional game and how we share those funds and how they’re applied to paying players. So at the moment that doesn’t necessarily change.
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“The players’ contracts … will be status quo at the moment, but that said, we know that this pandemic is going to have a commercial impact on the game. We just don’t quite know what the extent on that is.”
For now, the players’ association is working closely with NZ Rugby and its stakeholders, and are offering support to players affected by the pandemic.
“The players are people first and foremost and they care about their fellow people, their family and friends,” Nichol said. “That’s where most people’s thoughts are with, both those that are with them in New Zealand and those that are overseas. A lot of the players have friends that are overseas in UK, Europe, Japan and America for example.
“First and foremost our thoughts are with people. Secondly, everyone is focused on trying to play the role we’re supposed to play in terms of what the government strategy is in dealing with this pandemic. They want to be responsible and do the right thing and follow the guidelines just like everyone else.
“And likewise, they want to make sure we’re around the table when we do what we have to for our industry and our requirements and our colleagues and other stakeholders in the sport.
“That’s kind of where things are at. It’s uncertain times; it’s not easy for anyone. But the players we have always maintained that through the good times and through the bad times, the way we work through things are together.”
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