Coronavirus: Premiership rugby chief wants to finish season

Exeter chiefs
Exeter Chiefs were top of the Premiership when the season was suspended on 16 March

Multiple Premiership matches could be played behind closed doors at one venue to get this campaign finished, the competition's chief executive has said.

Darren Childs says the sport is looking at many options to try to complete their season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Matches have been suspended until at least 24 April with nine rounds and play-offs still to happen.

“Our number one priority is to find a way to play,” Childs said.

“We want to get this season finished, and if that means playing over the summer, then we will do that, as long as it is safe to do so. We won't take any risks about anyone's health and welfare.

"Rugby does make an impact on medical staff and hospitals because of the nature of it, and that is an absolute priority for us to make sure we are not taking any of those resources away.“

‘The first sport back on television’

Many of the Premiership’s 12 clubs have asked their players and staff to take 25% pay cuts because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Harlequins being the latest club to announce such a measure on Monday.

But the pandemic has also hit sports broadcasters whose schedules have been decimated by the postponement of leagues around the world.

There has been no professional sport in England since 15 March, while there has been no top-flight rugby union in England since the weekend before.

“We are all working to try and hopefully be the first sport back on television, whether that is in a closed stadium or an open stadium,” added Childs.

"There is no reason why we couldn't play four games over a weekend in a single stadium.

"To be able to concentrate things in one area, certainly if it is a closed-door game, means we can be sensible about trying to reduce the impact on the TV operations, the crews and the filming by compressing it into one venue."

Player welfare taken into account

Childs says Premiership Rugby is reviewing its 24 April restart date every day, but a decision on when to begin again will only be made when it is safe to play.

Exeter currently lead the table after 13 rounds while Saracens' relegation was confirmed earlier this year in the wake of the champions breaching the league’s salary cap.

"All options are on the table right now, but our absolute preference and the one we are working towards is playing the season out as much as we can over those summer months,” Childs added.

"We are looking at all player-welfare issues in relation to playing midweek games.

"What we don't want to do is to compress it so much that it creates player-welfare issues, and we just wouldn't do that.

"We do think we have got some good ideas about how maybe we could stack games over weekends.

"Our priority is the Premiership and getting the elite game going as soon as we can."

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