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Jersey Reds: ‘No appetite’ for a closed-doors return

Rugby | Published:

PROFESSIONAL rugby may not return to Jersey until 2021 if a spectator ban at sports events is enforced throughout autumn.

Jersey Reds' chairman says the club would run at a loss if it had to play league fixtures behind closed doors Picture: JON GUEGAN

Jersey Reds chairman Mark Morgan says returning to Championship action before restrictions on mass gatherings are lifted would not be viable for second tier clubs, and he confirmed that a January 2021 restart is one scenario discussed with the RFU.

English rugby’s governing body ordered all play to be halted indefinitely when Covid-19 spread across the country in March and officials subsequently cancelled remaining fixtures for 2019/20 below the Premiership. Top-flight games behind closed doors are being mooted for an August return but talks regarding the 2020/21 Championship season will be directed by health developments in the coming months – both in Jersey and in England.

States of Jersey ‘Safe Exit’ guidance currently predicts a return of sports events without spectators at ‘Level 1’ (the Island currently sits at Level 3), although rugby is likely to be excluded as group gatherings would still be restricted to 25 people. Reds’ director of rugby Harvey Biljon’s current plan is to begin pre-season training on 1 July but the club’s competitive activity depends largely on affairs across the Channel. The number of daily new cases of coronavirus on the mainland is currently fluctuating around the 2,000-mark.

‘It really is quite complicated,’ Morgan explained. ‘We in Jersey are in somewhat of a better place than England in terms of handling the virus but the problem with that is there is no point in us being ready to play if the other 11 in the division aren’t.

‘What the Premiership are trying to do is primarily aimed at not having to pay back money for television rights, which isn’t an issue for us. I don’t think there would be any appetite to play behind closed doors at our level because we make a lot of our money from gate receipts, food and beverage sales and corporate hospitality. To run a match without that ... we’d run at a major loss. Why would you want to do that?

‘Everything is flexible and with the RFU we have drawn up fixture lists that would look different the later we start. If we are to start in September, great, if not then we’ve got scenarios for what it would look like for an October start, a November start and so on.’

Substantial delays to the 2020/21 campaign would affect pre-season fixture commitments, while the Championship Cup could be scrapped.

Morgan added: ‘We had been talking to some top sides for pre-season. We had some cracking sides due to come over but of course that’s all in abeyance now.

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‘We need clarity in several areas. One is around travel and linked to that comes isolation requirements, then you’re thinking about gathering sizes. At the moment with the gathering sizes the way they are you can’t possibly have a squad training sessions, which is fully understood.

‘We need a time-frame around when that’s going to change and the RFU is rightly not making calls before they have spoken to the government and have approval in terms of the next step.

‘It’s very difficult to plan when you don’t have set dates to plan for. It’s frustrating, but it’s nobody’s fault.’

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox
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