Will this year’s Lions tour be remembered as worth it, or folly?

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Now that the Lions tour has begun, the question crossing my mind is, “Will this year’s Lions tour be remembered as worth it, or folly?” With news filtering back of hastily scheduled rematches, coronavirus induced self-isolation and footage of the empty stadiums. You would be correct in asking, “Is it worth the bother?”

Lions tour – For or against?

There are several things to consider. Depending on your stance the answer is very black and white, or it’s murkier than that. Do you love rugby? Think money is prioritised over fans? Worry about the safety of the players and coaches in relation to the Covid-19 virus? Do you worry for the same reasons, about the safety of the workers at the hotels and the stadiums? The bus drivers and so on, and so on?

Many feel that the tour should have been postponed. Their argument has legitimacy. With travelling fans banned from entering South Africa; can this tour really be called a genuine tour? Others, including the Lions coach Warren Gatland believe that the jamboree will go ahead and reach a conclusion. This brings us back to the original question posed; Will this year’s Lions tour be remembered as worth it, or an expensive and time-consuming folly?

Lack of Fans

Let’s consider the two principal factors for cancellation. Firstly a lack of fans and secondly, the ubiquitous, looming presence of the coronavirus. In the opinion of Thomas Booth that the lack of fans is the stronger of the arguments for cancelling the tour. Sport is compromised as a spectacle without fans.

A tour with no fans adds fuel to the fire of those that say that money is always the bottom line in this professional era. Where’s the camaraderie of old? Where are the lifelong friendships created both on and off the pitch? Bonds and mutual respect made between opposing fans, players and coaches should always remain a quintessential part of rugby.

Counter Arguments

Were the tour to get cancelled in the next few days. What happens then? Will it be easy to pick up where we left off with regard to a tour on the scale of the British and Irish Lions? Would it set a precedent for upcoming tours? Even if the South Africa tour was successfully rescheduled, New Zealand and Australia might present big hurdles for upcoming tours. Their success in minimising the virus came about because of stringent travel controls.

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Just to play devil’s advocate a bit given all the conjecture that is going around. Are we seriously saying that we’re more concerned about the coronavirus than say a concussion or a broken limb? Rugby is a dangerous sport, let’s not kid ourselves.

However having said all that, there may be some players with a vulnerability that we, outside the bubble, don’t know about. Being asthmatic for instance may put you at higher risk of coronavirus complications. There are also the vulnerable members of their friendship circles, or immediate families to consider. The UK has a relatively high percentage of people who are double jabbed. South Africa’s population is likely to have a much lower percentage. In fact figures from Our World Data suggest it is around five percent.

Will this year’s Lions tour be remembered as worth it, or folly?

It is this writer’s opinion that the tour should continue. The benefits outweigh the risks. If it was stopped, might it be the beginning of the end for the Lions? The player’s workload is already extremely demanding and they would appreciate the break. However what a sad demise it would be for this storied tour chock full of history and unforgettable moments.


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