The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa will proceed as planned. This was announced in a joint statement by the Lions Board and SA Rugby.
British and Irish Lions tour proceeds
Jason Leonard, Chairman of the British and Irish Lions, is quoted as saying:
“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021.”
No other viable option
This gives some finality to the ongoing conversation as to whether or not the British and Irish Lions tour would go ahead in South Africa or the UK. There was talk of Australia hosting the tour, which was declined. The other option many thought would be ideal would be to postpone the tour for another year. Pre-existing commitments in the 2022 international window by the UK teams made this idea a non-starter.
The tour itinerary
The assumption is that the tour itinerary would remain the same, but until all COVID-19 bio-security requirements this remains unclear. The original tour itinerary took the Lions across the length and breadth of South Africa. This might prove problematic to implement. Mark Alexander, President of the South African Rugby Union did add this word of caution.
The original tour schedule is subject to review. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.
The financial implication
The financial implications of not allowing supporters to attend the games are significant for South Africa. Aside from the lack of add-on revenue streams that would have helped add to SA Rugby’s coffers, the dire situation of the country’s tourism industry would have been alleviated to some extent. The tour is said to be making a small profit simply from television rights.
The arrangement of hosting the tour behind closed doors is not what anybody wanted, but it is the best solution for a nearly impossible situation. The complete cancellation of the tour was a distinct possibility.
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