As of 1st June professional sport can restart in England, however, the plans for the Premiership season to begin again are nowhere to be seen which as seen calls to void it grow. As football, cricket, tennis amongst others all get going again rugby is being left behind.
The longer the Premiership goes without producing a plan then more likely they are to void the season. David Challis has already looked at how the Premiership could restart, however, is it time that we call time on this season?
It’s back! ?
Competitive sport behind closed doors is now allowed.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 1, 2020
Earliest Start Day in Mid-July
It seems to be reasonably well agreed that players will need around six weeks of training before any games can start. If that begins at the start of June that puts the restarting of the season around mid-July.
The Premiership still has 11 rounds to complete including semi-finals and finals. This would take us up to the start of October to finish the season. Rumours have then suggested we may go into an international window followed by the 2020/21 season beginning in December.
There are a number of issues to unpick here, firstly a season that ends in October is the best-case scenario. It could well be later which would put further pressure on next season. Secondly, what happens to those playing in that international window if it occurs? Not to mention what the 2020/21 season would look like given it begins in December.
They will potentially play 15 or so weeks in a row then be thrust back into a season again. It does not seem like something that players or clubs would readily agree to. Perhaps why coming up with a plan is taking so long.
As far as the plan looks on the surface it can only be viewed as a non-starter. This leads you to the option of whether or not to void the Premiership season entirely. Saracens would go down and Newcastle would come up. However, some other options are available.
Two Games a Week or an Abridged Season?
If you could run two games a week and have player welfare systems in place to limit game time then you could cut the season in half. This option works quite nicely as it would allow the season to end at the end of August, giving more time before resuming again.
However, commercially this plan runs out of legs. Clubs will be forced to field second-string players regularly and this could harm viewing numbers. Despite the fact that the country is desperate for live sport, the prospect of, say, Saracens B vs London Irish B to does not fill the heart with pleasure.
Another option would be to abridge the season in some way. In a previous article, Last Word on Rugby looked at the way in which this would be possible. As a result, we will not go into detail here but the basic concept would be based around splitting the league into sections to limit the games.
This would lead to more compelling games from a commercial stand-point. However, the integrity of the league would suffer. Individual interests of clubs may be the stumbling block here as any plan would suit some more than others.
Follow the Example of Other Leagues?
If an agreement cannot be reached then the only option the Premiership would have is to void the season. The Top 14 have already done this with all French sports aiming for a September resumption. Super Rugby has called it a day although national competitions in Australia and New Zealand have been set up in its place.
Many have been calling to void the Premiership season for a while now. Perhaps they were right all along. All we do know now is that rugby needs to get its act together. The Premiership needs to acts decisively and quickly otherwise things could get messy. A voided season could be disastrous for some clubs, however, the uncertainty we are living in currently could be just as dangerous.
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