Covid-19 crisis - what next for rugby with teams left in promotion/relegation limbo

PUBLISHED: 16:52 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 24 March 2020

Honiton rugby action

Honiton rugby action


Rugby teams involved in promotion and relegation issues in the wake of the coronavirus crisis could be left in limbo until Easter or even beyond, writes Conrad Sutclifde.

The RFU, which runs the league system below the Premiership, now has the tricky task of sorting out who goes where – if at all – amid the wreckage of one of the wettest seasons on record.

Plenty of clubs have games in hand on teams above them – Exeter Athletic are four games behind in the Cornwall & Devon Division – which only clouds the situation.

Mike Gee, the organising secretary for the South West Division, said deciding how tables will be finalised is going to be a lengthy task.
“Conversations have been going on since late last week and meetings were planned until the latest developments with the spread of the coronavirus,” said Gee.

“There are lots of ideas about how tables could be finalised, but there are so many of them and so many people involved, I don’t want to raise anyone’s hopes by listing them.

“It is not just the community club sides of the league – from South West Premier Division downwards – but also the women’s game, schools and colleges, the National Leagues and Championship – in fact everything.

“My understanding is committees are talking to each other and have to come up with a recommendation for the Community Game Board by April 1. Whatever they recommend will then have to go to the RFU Council for approval, which could take until mid-April.”

Clubs in Devon and Cornwall were caught up in something similar on a smaller scale back in 2001 when a foot-and-mouth outbreak hit farming communities.

The RFU created a ‘pools panel’ to determine likely results for un-played games and awarded points on a fractional basis.

Promotion and relegation stayed in place with Bideford winning the old Western Counties Division with 28.60 points.

Gee said going down the same route again was fraught with problems which made it an unlikely option.
“Firstly, the foot-and-mouth epidemic only affected rural areas so the leagues in big cities were not affected,” said Gee.

“There was work to do, but it was not nationwide, which would be the case this time.

“The second issue as I see it is that now we have a bonus points system that was not in place back in 2001 when it was a straight two points for a win, one for a draw and nothing if you lose.

“Can you average out bonus points when games are played in totally different conditions at different times of the season and can run up big points in fine weather or scrape a 9-6 win when it is blowing a gale and throwing it down with rain?”

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