From top to bottom, rugby union is now staring into the abyssFrom the best-run Premiership club to the grassroots, all parts of the game are in peril but not all its ills can be pinned on Covid
The Welsh Rugby Union have announced that Wales' final match of the postponed Six Nations against Scotland on October 31, and their first match of the Autumn Nations Cup against Georgia on November 21, will be played behind closed doors at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli. The Principality Stadium in Cardiff is not available for the rest of the year while it continues to be used as the Dragons Heart Hospital. The WRU also revealed that it has options in place to host their two other Autumn Nations Cup fixtures - against England on November 28 and the play-off final fixture on December 5 - at locations in London "in order to maximise potential revenue", generating much-needed income for the WRU. Yet with the Rugby Football Union now forced to put their plans on hold to host 20,000 supporters for England's fixture against the Barbarians on October 25, the prospect of any Wales fans attending matches either inside or outside of the country appears unlikely. "Given how vital Wales games are to the funding of our sport, it was only right that every option was explored," said WRU CEO Steve Phillips. "We hope that supporters will understand that we are duty bound to continue to explore all options before making a final call with respect to England and the Autumn Nations Cup final match. "We are hopeful that it will be deemed safe for at least some, perhaps socially distanced and restricted, crowds to attend these matches and also remain open to the prospect of using the Parc y Scarlets fixtures as test events with limited attendances if possible. "Whilst it is disappointing to play these matches without supporters we would like to thank all of those who follow, support and participate in Welsh rugby and our partners for their patience during these hugely challenging times."
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney has warned that a season without fans is set to cost rugby union hundreds of millions of pounds as sports appeal for financial support from the government in the wake of new coronavirus restrictions.Plans were in place to begin a staged return of fans to sporting fixtures from the start of next month, with several test events having been staged already, but on Tuesday the government announced a pausing of that initiative amid a surge in coronavirus cases.