No change in Covid-19 rules for now, say RFL
Yesterday’s fixtures between Hull KR and Warrington Wolves and Hull FC against Leigh Centurions were the latest to go.
The main issue is the number of players having to stand down due to close contacts with those that have tested positive.
RFL’s chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse said they had been “in dialogue” with the DCMS regarding the possibility of being an exemption for elite sportspeople to not have to isolate for ten days in such instances, based upon the fact they are part of a testing regime.
She said: “The DCMS are incredibly sympathetic to the challenges it poses. However, at the moment, I don’t think that is something that will happen.
“There’s significant pressure from lots of other industries who would equally put forward a very compelling argument.
“But there’s suggestions that from August 16bpeople who have received both vaccinations will be exempt from isolating for ten days as close contact subject to continuing to test negative.
That could have a significant and helpful impact on our ability to get matches played.
“That is of course only if still negative and the delta variant is very transmissible so it is only of benefit if we continue to have biosecure environments and do what we can to make sure there isn’t a spread of Covid in teams.”
The issue there, of course, is that not all players are taking up the offer of the vaccination.
Moorhouse said: “Ultimately, we are not mandating vaccination. We believe very strongly as a governing body about the benefits of vaccinations from a player health perspective and also from a broader sport perspective.
“But ultimately we’re not – at the moment – mandating that players have to be vaccinated.”
In the current climate, there are obvious fears for Saturday’s Challenge Cup final between Castleford Tigers and St Helens.
Moorhouse revealed: “We have done some contingency planning that did include that, had we known by today that a club wasn’t going to be able to make the final, we would have brought in one of the losing semi-finalists to play.”
“We are now just about past that point. But we still do have contingency plans in place.”
The RFL say, despite the disruption they are still committed to promotion and relegation while Super League say they are on course to fulfil their minimum commitment of 69 matches on Sky.
Super League commercial manager Rhodri Jones said: “What helped us is the fact we got runs on the board early in the season: with all the two opening rounds being televised at one venue, we were at 12.
“That was done deliberately because we didn’t know what position we would be in (later).”
Meanwhile, Moorhouse says the seven-day graduated return to play - on top of the 10 days isolation - that players have to complete if they have tested positive will remain.
Featherstone Rovers player Frankie Halton questioned that policy on social media at the weekend given he will miss Saturday’s 1895 Cup final at Wembley because of the 17-day ruling.
He Tweeted: “What I don’t get is why the rest of society can isolate for 10 days and go back to normal but players can’t?
“I’ve done my 10 days tomorrow but not allowed to play at Wembley next weekend...but I can go and watch. Makes sense?”
Moorhouse said: “That seven day graduated return to play was based on medical best practice based on advice our Covid medical lead and other sport medical leads.
“Absolutely it is something that will remain under review.
“But it comes back to what we’re trying to achieve. This is about player health.
“While it may be fine to go back to an office job after 10 days, the demands rugby league places on your body means we need to take a sensible but cautious approach that can come out of the different risk factors that can come out of having Covid.
“The nearest analogy is the concussion protocol and where it’s right and proper the governing body and clubs step in.
“And even if a player says, ‘I’m good to go,’ actually we’ve got to do the right thing by the players and make sure we’re looking after their health.
“It’s absolutely nothing to do with the risk of spreading Covid-19 After 10 days you’ve done your isolation period.
“It’s about looking after their health because of the complications you can get as a result of having Covid and therefore making sure people are fit enough and healthy enough to play a full contact game of rugby league.”