The August 2nd restart for Super League looks in increasingly jeopardy as player action on wages has curtailed the return to pre-restart training for all but three topflight clubs in what is a constantly evolving and fast-moving situation.
It is understood that the decision of Hull FC directors to pay their players in full, despite not earning money through the turnstiles, has caused ructions amongst players from other sides who now want the same deal, potentially plunging their sides into economic turmoil.
Warrington Wolves prop forward Mike Cooper spilled the beans on the current stand-off, suggesting that only three sides have returned to training after reaching wage agreement with their players.
Initial assessments at the start of the coronavirus lock down were that players would be forced to take a 10 to 15 percent pay cut, similar to the millions of workers who were placed on furlough, until the end of the 2020 season. Some clubs have already announced that they are projecting large financial losses for 2020, despite the August restart and any further delay will cause increased financial hardship.
All Super League clubs have a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) and this matter is believed to be high on the agenda as it will need resolving quickly so as not to jeopardise the first games in just twenty-six days. To ensure that the players are in good physical playing condition it will be important to recommence training in the next few days.
The matters of; the number of rounds to complete the season, the remaining fixture programme, a return to fan admissions, the abandonment of scrums and other rule changes, and promotion and relegation are all burning issue for the games owners and administrators to resolve. Few would envy the enormous task ahead of them.
Failure to restart on the 2nd August is likely to cause issues with SKY TV and an already fragile television deal which is the lifeblood of the game. Abandonment of promotion from, and relegation to, the Championship will also have a bearing on the restart and survival of the Championship, as the removal of the reward for the end of the season is likely to lead to the abandonment of those league until 2021.
At the risk of being pessimistic, tomorrow’s meeting is critical to determining whether we will see rugby league back on our screen this year, and possibly to the entire survival of the professional game in this country.