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Thread: Coronavirus - Rugby League Implications

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    In The North Stand With All The Old Folk DD's Avatar
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    Default Coronavirus - Rugby League Implications

    As the other thread now seems to have migrated into a discussion about the virus and the wider health and political implications, I thought I'd kick off one about the effects on the game and keep the two separate.

    I think we are now beyond the point of thinking that we are going to be able to come out of the house in June and start watching rugby again. This is simply not going to happen. When you consider that Germany, a country that has kept the number of fatalities to a much lower level than here, has said that there will be no gatherings at sporting fixtures before September at the very earliest, then there is no reason to suspect that date is going to be improved upon here.

    Given that the current season had only just got underway, unlike football, curtailing the season will not cause the same moral issues in terms of promotion, relegation and title races. Indeed, given the struggles of Toronto, it could well save the game a dilemma in that respect.

    For me, I see no hope of sport being back on the menu soon and I actually don't really think we are going to see crowds over a few hundred at sporting fixtures back for another 12 months. I might be wrong. I hope I'm wrong, but I really think the public is being kept from the truth of the likely extent of the social distancing that will need to be kept in place for fear of social unrest. Given that the virus will not be killed off, it seems implausible that we can even think of mass gatherings throughout the winter months when the virus will still be circulating, at least until the elderly and vulnerable have access to vaccination.

    On that basis, I cannot see past the season being abandoned completely, even if the RFL wish to carry on for the moment in the stubborn belief that it won't be.

    However, it would be feasible perhaps to play out a convoluted season behind closed doors, as social distancing gets relaxed to allow small gatherings.

    So, would it be morally right to get games underway in late summer and play some behind closed doors, and would that have any positive financial benefit via Sky TV?

    Can any club realistically survive 12 months without playing?

    Quite frankly, where do we go from here? How does the game get out of this situation?

    Obviously, I am aware there are more important things than rugby at the moment, but we all need to keep the grey matter alert.
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    Learning All The Songs KentishBarry's Avatar
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    Televised games behind closed doors is an obvious way forward as restrictions are gradually lifted.
    Trouble is, I'm not sure how far they would need to be lifted before it's acceptable to have two teams plus all the necessary support staff breaking the 2m distance thing (which they will have to do). Maybe, if the testing takes off as it should do, games could be played only using players showing immunity?
    Games need a doctor and other emergency cover on hand, so that could be problematic if they are as busy as they are now!

    Can clubs survive? I think most will. A struggling club can probably get more financial help now than would have been available a year or two ago.
    I've said on other threads that I would like to see the RFL state that they will not punish any club having to enter administration.

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    Economically the wider game will need either support from the Government or the Broadcaster. Saints have got a stadium built to generate off-field growth to sustain the rugby that we all love. At present plenty of outgoings but no or minimal income. Can we sustain a lost twelve months on both strands of the business heaven knows.

    Looking at Salford I don't know how they would come back as a professional club from a 12 month break without serious external support.

    The teams who live hand to mouth in the part-time element of the sport on traditional low spec owned stadia for example Keighley maybe nothing changes and they just get back on the horse when it runs again.

    The wider sport and the conflicting Governing bodies the RFL and SLE will really feel this break especially the RFL who in my time of dealing with them had a large organisational headcount and as was evidenced by his pay-off Nige was on a fat wedge. I know they may furlough staff but any Government hand out will no doubt be looked upon by the RFL as partly theirs.

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    In The South Stand STIDDY's Avatar
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    There is a far bigger picture than just looking at Rugby League in isolation, there will be a pivot point after 3 months of lock down when they need to get the Economy powered up again to avoid a total collapse in more ways than one. I don't think any business sport would survive a 12 month break, the government will have a pecking order of support with services and manufacturing at the top of the list, Rugby League will have very little value especially when the government funding drys up.

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    In The South Stand Paul Newlove's Avatar
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    Unfortunately if this season doesn't happen I can see all RL players being made redundant and becoming free agents. Some could go to NRL some to Union (although they are struggling also). Super League may come back completely different, part time?, different squads?
    I obviously hope I'm wrong and we can restart the season at some point but RL clubs can't keep players with no income.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Newlove View Post
    Unfortunately if this season doesn't happen I can see all RL players being made redundant and becoming free agents. Some could go to NRL some to Union (although they are struggling also). Super League may come back completely different, part time?, different squads?
    I obviously hope I'm wrong and we can restart the season at some point but RL clubs can't keep players with no income.
    Can't see too many heading this way to be honest. There's still talk here of a couple of clubs not making it through in the NRL. That would mean a surplus of players and little room for extras.

    As an aside - happy 90th birthday to my mum in St Helens. Should have been over there celebrating today. If anyone walks past the corner of Kiln Lane and Millbrook Lane, yell out Happy 90th for me, would you?

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    Learning All The Songs Angry Dave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by STIDDY View Post
    There is a far bigger picture than just looking at Rugby League in isolation, there will be a pivot point after 3 months of lock down when they need to get the Economy powered up again to avoid a total collapse in more ways than one. I don't think any business sport would survive a 12 month break, the government will have a pecking order of support with services and manufacturing at the top of the list, Rugby League will have very little value especially when the government funding drys up.
    At which point the yanks will no doubt kick off another war, most likely in Iraq I'd say, especially as them and the Saudi's seem to be reaching an agreement on oil output at the moment. Generate some quick cash, do the whole infastructure thing through government contractors again and bang oil prices back up. I best dig out my bucket and spade.

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    In The South Stand Sean Day's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyprus View Post
    Economically the wider game will need either support from the Government or the Broadcaster. Saints have got a stadium built to generate off-field growth to sustain the rugby that we all love. At present plenty of outgoings but no or minimal income. Can we sustain a lost twelve months on both strands of the business heaven knows.

    Looking at Salford I don't know how they would come back as a professional club from a 12 month break without serious external support.

    The teams who live hand to mouth in the part-time element of the sport on traditional low spec owned stadia for example Keighley maybe nothing changes and they just get back on the horse when it runs again.

    The wider sport and the conflicting Governing bodies the RFL and SLE will really feel this break especially the RFL who in my time of dealing with them had a large organisational headcount and as was evidenced by his pay-off Nige was on a fat wedge. I know they may furlough staff but any Government hand out will no doubt be looked upon by the RFL as partly theirs.
    I was reading an article the other day that said clubs like Salford are in a reasonable position to survive as they rent a ground and have a relatively low cost base with a budget squad and minimal off field staffing.

    On the wider issue I think the only hope for the season is the behind closed doors approach and possibly 30 mins each way if there needs to be multiple games per week. All of this only possible with social distancing being relaxed. It might be a good idea for SL/RFL to give away games for free to give the game a bit more exposure and advertising revenue to cover the loss in other revenue streams like gate money and hospitality

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    Learning All The Songs KentishBarry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Day View Post
    I was reading an article the other day that said clubs like Salford are in a reasonable position to survive as they rent a ground and have a relatively low cost base with a budget squad and minimal off field staffing...
    I was thinking about those who rent (mentioning no names). It could also end in tears if the organisation you're renting from went bust!

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    In The South Stand Ralph Fridge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Day View Post
    I was reading an article the other day that said clubs like Salford are in a reasonable position to survive as they rent a ground and have a relatively low cost base with a budget squad and minimal off field staffing.

    On the wider issue I think the only hope for the season is the behind closed doors approach and possibly 30 mins each way if there needs to be multiple games per week. All of this only possible with social distancing being relaxed. It might be a good idea for SL/RFL to give away games for free to give the game a bit more exposure and advertising revenue to cover the loss in other revenue streams like gate money and hospitality
    You're right. The likes of us, Warrington, Leeds, possibly Hull & Wigan with relatively high wage bills are going to struggle. Catalans are going to be hit very hard I think too.

    Edit: Warrington do have an owner with serious money behind him so if he's prepared to dig into his coffers, they'll be alright
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Fridge View Post
    Warrington do have an owner with serious money behind him so if he's prepared to dig into his coffers, they'll be alright
    This is true, but my thoughts always lead me to the question 'will you spend the money to survive if you have no idea what will be left at the end of it all?'. Will anyone spend a seven figure sum to keep their club going when the rest of the sport is going under? You could end up with 4 or 5 owners or CEOs spending millions to end up as the only clubs that can survive as fully professional. In that respect, you would imagine that they will be taking advice and looking at the long term viability of their investments if we are all still socially distancing and barred from going to games in 3 months time.

    I have no idea what will happen here, but in a doomsday scenario I would rather have 15-20 RL clubs in England able to compete at a semi-professional level than have 4-5 reasonably strong professional clubs and the rest going out of business or being primarily amateur.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Fridge View Post
    You're right. The likes of us, Warrington, Leeds, possibly Hull & Wigan with relatively high wage bills are going to struggle. Catalans are going to be hit very hard I think too.

    Edit: Warrington do have an owner with serious money behind him so if he's prepared to dig into his coffers, they'll be alright
    The other thing to consider if this goes on for 12 months is those high wage bills might come down because there will be a lot of players off contract toward the end of this current season. I would imagine quite a fair percentage will be overseas players who may never chance the return to the UK, could we manage without Coote, Tai, Peyroux, Naiqama and Paulo the answer might be yes for us but I,m not sure if other teams would, in particularly Hull who could be in deep trouble.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Fridge View Post
    You're right. The likes of us, Warrington, Leeds, possibly Hull & Wigan with relatively high wage bills are going to struggle. Catalans are going to be hit very hard I think too.

    Edit: Warrington do have an owner with serious money behind him so if he's prepared to dig into his coffers, they'll be alright
    Can a rich owner just pile funds in?

    I'm not too sure but doesn't your salary cap have to be a percentage of your club's income.

    He could carry the other debts of the club but I don't think he can fund player's wages.

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    From a selfish point of view, I would be quite happy if they could do some of the season behind closed doors, if Sky paid enough to make it economically worthwhile.

    If we got in quickly, before Premiership Football does the same, we could be the only live sport on TV.

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    In The South Stand Ralph Fridge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gray77 View Post
    This is true, but my thoughts always lead me to the question 'will you spend the money to survive if you have no idea what will be left at the end of it all?'. Will anyone spend a seven figure sum to keep their club going when the rest of the sport is going under? You could end up with 4 or 5 owners or CEOs spending millions to end up as the only clubs that can survive as fully professional. In that respect, you would imagine that they will be taking advice and looking at the long term viability of their investments if we are all still socially distancing and barred from going to games in 3 months time.

    I have no idea what will happen here, but in a doomsday scenario I would rather have 15-20 RL clubs in England able to compete at a semi-professional level than have 4-5 reasonably strong professional clubs and the rest going out of business or being primarily amateur.
    Never even thought of it like that but you're right
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    In The South Stand Ralph Fridge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by STIDDY View Post
    The other thing to consider if this goes on for 12 months is those high wage bills might come down because there will be a lot of players off contract toward the end of this current season. I would imagine quite a fair percentage will be overseas players who may never chance the return to the UK, could we manage without Coote, Tai, Peyroux, Naiqama and Paulo the answer might be yes for us but I,m not sure if other teams would, in particularly Hull who could be in deep trouble.
    True. I've been a big advocate for limiting the oseas quota to 3 but situations like this may really show the lack of depth in the comp.
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    In The South Stand Ralph Fridge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infamous Grouse View Post
    Can a rich owner just pile funds in?

    I'm not too sure but doesn't your salary cap have to be a percentage of your club's income.

    He could carry the other debts of the club but I don't think he can fund player's wages.
    I'm not too sure. I was just thinking in terms of propping the club up, hadn't thought about players wages per se
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    From Saints point of view, I've no idea what the 'running costs' would be to just keep the club going.
    I'm assuming that any temporary staff and contractors pay (security, bar staff, cleaners etc) will simply be suspended. Any full time staff could be furloughed, although I don't know if this applies. Id never heard of it until a few weeks back!
    I'm guessing that the players, coaches etc will still be on full pay as they will be expected to train and be ready to restart the season as and when. If the plug is pulled on this season, then I'm guessing that they too could be furloughed?
    Keeping the stadium ticking over shouldn't be too costly, although I'm sure there are hidden costs that we don't know about.
    I'm not even going to attempt any analysis of the financial side, not knowing what debts the club has, or to who!

    ...But, I do think we'll be OK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KentishBarry View Post
    From Saints point of view, I've no idea what the 'running costs' would be to just keep the club going.
    I'm assuming that any temporary staff and contractors pay (security, bar staff, cleaners etc) will simply be suspended. Any full time staff could be furloughed, although I don't know if this applies. Id never heard of it until a few weeks back!
    I'm guessing that the players, coaches etc will still be on full pay as they will be expected to train and be ready to restart the season as and when. If the plug is pulled on this season, then I'm guessing that they too could be furloughed?
    Keeping the stadium ticking over shouldn't be too costly, although I'm sure there are hidden costs that we don't know about.
    I'm not even going to attempt any analysis of the financial side, not knowing what debts the club has, or to who!

    ...But, I do think we'll be OK.
    I tend to agree with you without knowing the in's and out's. McManus is very clued up fiscally speaking.

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    At the end of the day, I became a fan when our players were semi-pro, only a handful of games were on TV, we played in an old ground with poor facilities and most of our players were local lads. I fell in love with this because I loved the game, and loved watching my hometown team competing. It’s a bit like being a fan on a non league football team. Provided everyone is at a similar level you go with it and enjoy the competition and cheer your team on.

    So if we end up in the doomsday scenario were we go back to being semi pro, lose the TV deals, end up with a team full of lads who came through Blackbrook, Heath, etc and all the other clubs are the same then I’ll still probably treat it all pretty much the same.

    I’d hope that we’d be fine anyway because we have a stadium that can make money from future non RL events to bolster the main part of the business, but I’ve thought a lot about what happens if the sport suffers losses that it cannot sustain. If we did fall back to semi pro level and ended up with less money and had to cut our cloth accordingly, would we stop being fans? Would we stop going? Would we stop supporting the club financially?

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    really is sorry Reacher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gray77 View Post
    At the end of the day, I became a fan when our players were semi-pro, only a handful of games were on TV, we played in an old ground with poor facilities and most of our players were local lads. I fell in love with this because I loved the game, and loved watching my hometown team competing. Its a bit like being a fan on a non league football team. Provided everyone is at a similar level you go with it and enjoy the competition and cheer your team on.

    So if we end up in the doomsday scenario were we go back to being semi pro, lose the TV deals, end up with a team full of lads who came through Blackbrook, Heath, etc and all the other clubs are the same then Ill still probably treat it all pretty much the same.

    Id hope that wed be fine anyway because we have a stadium that can make money from future non RL events to bolster the main part of the business, but Ive thought a lot about what happens if the sport suffers losses that it cannot sustain. If we did fall back to semi pro level and ended up with less money and had to cut our cloth accordingly, would we stop being fans? Would we stop going? Would we stop supporting the club financially?
    We are in a more perilous position than others because of the stadium. Us, Warrington and Leeds are financially more at risk.

    Our business plan is more or less based around the stadium and the income generated from it. With no weddings, conferences etc allowed, we have no non match day income coming in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reacher View Post
    We are in a more perilous position than others because of the stadium. Us, Warrington and Leeds are financially more at risk.

    Our business plan is more or less based around the stadium and the income generated from it. With no weddings, conferences etc allowed, we have no non match day income coming in.
    Yeah mate, you’re quite obviously spot on. I was talking about future events being a way out of this for us, with the stadium potentially being used for big post-coronavirus events and gigs. I have tickets for several things that have been put back to a later date, and I haven’t gone for the refund option on any because I want to look forward to these things. There must be potential for the club to bring in money based on the scheduling of future events.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reacher View Post
    We are in a more perilous position than others because of the stadium. Us, Warrington and Leeds are financially more at risk.

    Our business plan is more or less based around the stadium and the income generated from it. With no weddings, conferences etc allowed, we have no non match day income coming in.
    I agree with regard to the day to day costs of running the ground but a lot depends where the club is upto with regard to paying off the loan they took out to build it.

    If its bought and paid for it's a valuable asset on the balance sheet and can be secured against any debts we have or loans we may need.

    If a club has no assets and are already in debt to bank or HMRC that's a more perilous situation

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    Learning All The Songs KentishBarry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reacher View Post
    We are in a more perilous position than others because of the stadium. Us, Warrington and Leeds are financially more at risk.

    Our business plan is more or less based around the stadium and the income generated from it. With no weddings, conferences etc allowed, we have no non match day income coming in.
    I'm hoping some of that can be offset by having fewer overheads with the facilities in mothballs, a cheaper loan rate or repayment 'holiday' (assuming we have loans of that sort), plus help from the state as mentioned above.
    There could actually be a bit of boom when everything is lifted and people try to catch up on postponed functions. It wouldn't surprise me to see midweek weddings and the like.
    I'd like to think that we fans would do our bit too. I can't see myself dropping off my support just because we went back to being a semi-pro 'local' team.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reacher View Post
    We are in a more perilous position than others because of the stadium. Us, Warrington and Leeds are financially more at risk.

    Our business plan is more or less based around the stadium and the income generated from it. With no weddings, conferences etc allowed, we have no non match day income coming in.
    But on the flip side to that if we do somehow manage to pull through this crisis as a sport and most clubs can carry on wed be in a much stronger position than most of the other clubs. We can start to generate finances again through the stadium as well as match days. Clubs that dont own their own grounds or cant rely on their stadia to generate money will presumably have used up funds and possibly borrowed more to survive with no way of recouping this money other than match day revenue. This could ultimately lead to some clubs going into administration.

    Also I think that both ourselves and Warrington wouldve benefited from earnings made from prize money last season which in the grand scheme of things could be a massive help towards keeping the club going. Leeds on the other hand have just spent a small fortune renovating Headingley and Im sure part of the plan to pay off the debts was through using the stadium for corporate events which have now been stopped. I can see why Hetherington is desperate to play 3 games in a week to generate any income they can as fast as they can.

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