Bristol boss Pat Lam worried for Premiership if Covid lockdown comes

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Bristol boss Pat Lam has voiced concerns for the Gallagher Premiership if another national lockdown happens.

And Lam has described the Premier League’s decision to keep playing through the Christmas and New Year period as “an important one for rugby as well”.

All sport in Wales will go behind closed doors from Boxing Day as part of Welsh Government attempts to help control spread of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Welsh derby rugby matches in the United Rugby Championship are among those affected, although the Premiership is currently unscathed ahead of a busy festive timetable.

English rugby’s blue riband domestic competition was severely disrupted during lockdown last year, having to restart in August behind closed doors after being halted five months earlier.

Asked if the Premiership could survive in the event of another lockdown, Lam said: “I don’t think so.

“People look at us (Bristol) and think ‘they have got Steve Lansdown, a billionaire’ but what people tend to forget is we don’t have what Steve is worth.

Derby County v Bristol City – Sky Bet Championship – Pride Park
Bristol owner Steve Lansdown (Scott Wilson/PA)

“Steve has put in his time here close to £80million of his own money into Bristol rugby, and that is a lot of money.

“You have to be asking questions as you go through. What do we get for winning the Champions Cup? What do you get for winning the Premiership?

“The last few years, as a team we have brought in a lot of revenue and our revenue has gone up. But as far as central funding, as far as the television deals, everything, that is having an effect.

“We have a fantastic product. Professional rugby is a great game, but the reality is there are a lot of wealthy people who are losing money.

“I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, but this is not as cosy as people think.

“I am pretty sure PRL (Premiership Rugby Limited) will be talking to the Government. The decision by the Premier League to keep going was an important one for rugby as well.”

Premiership clubs, meanwhile, are now operating under a lower wage ceiling of £5million after £1.4m was shaved off their spending capacity due to the financial impact of Covid.

Due to the way the reduction has been structured, it is not expected to start having an impact until next season, particularly in the Heineken Champions Cup when English teams will face better-funded rivals from France and Ireland.

Bristol Bears v Newcastle Falcons – Gallagher Premiership – Ashton Gate
Bristol’s Fijian centre Semi Radradra (Adam Davy/PA)

Lam added: “It (salary cap reduction) was a decision we certainly didn’t agree with.

“The Premiership salary cap was up at £6.4m. But if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Don’t throw your club into financial crisis.

“That’s what I said about the marquee players when Semi (Radradra) and Charles (Piutau) came here and everyone made a big deal about it.

“It was a big deal because the spotlight wasn’t on just those guys at Bristol, it was on the Premiership. That’s why everyone loves the Premier League football – all the best players and coaches, everyone is there.

“That’s what the marquee rule was introduced for, but we have all come down to the lowest common denominator.

Exeter Chiefs v Montpellier – Heineken Champions Cup – Sandy Park
Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter (Steve Haag/PA)

“As I think Rob (Baxter, Exeter rugby director) said last week, they have made that (salary cap) rule but they are still spending that money, signing people up.

“But now it’s having an effect right across the clubs because at the end of the day every player wants to be paid more as they go through, and you are trying to squeeze this into that.

“We are going to see more (big name moves) happening as people try to equalise to bring it all down to what the majority voted for. Maybe at the expense of the Premiership being the best competition.

“Some of the big players or the ones that put bums on seats and bring the profile, you will get less and less of those.

“It all comes back to what you are trying to achieve, and you can’t sustain some of the bigger players because you cannot offer them what they want, and that is fine.”

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