Editor’s column: Playing the old waiting game

15th March 2020, The Mend-A-Hose Jungle, Castleford, England; Betfred Super League, Castleford Tigers v Saint Helens : After polite message reminds fans not to take soap and toilet rolls from the public toilets at Castleford Tigers The Mend-A-Hose Jungle stadium.

Speculation as to what happens with the current rugby league season is futile – no one, no where knows how it’s going to pan out.

The stark reality of the current coronavirus pandemic means it could be months before normality resumes, let alone the playing of sport.

Talk of playing midweek games, removing loop fixtures or even scrapping the Challenge Cup are redundant, given no one can give even a rough estimate as to when play can resume.

But it’s worth remembering that it’s just sport – the clubs are just like any other business, who are being significantly affected by the lockdown. In the grand scheme of things, protecting sports clubs is low down in the priorities of the government.

Training has now halted within Super League, despite some clubs trying their best to keep it going.

The option of playing games behind closed doors, ala the NRL, has now been shut off; and players themselves must be wondering how they can maintain themselves as professional athletes.

The questions may well have been raised by some of the imports if they can go home, particularly if they are away from their families.

For those of us who live their lives so engrossed in sport, life feels empty without it.

But the reality is sport pales in to insignificance given that people are losing their lives due to the pandemic.

Should players take pay cuts?

Mark Flanagan explains if players could take pay cuts to help Rugby League out…A new episode of the #OutOfYourLeague podcast is live on YouTube, Spotify & Apple Podcasts!

Posted by Super League on Saturday, 21 March 2020

The new government scheme enables businesses to claim for 80% of up to £2,500 per month for furloughed employees, ie. those that are being restricted due to the coronavirus.

Presumably rugby league clubs would quality for this, though it may only scrape the surface of player salaries, it at least gives some respite.

Being a rugby league player is a job, like any other, and while some may speculate over the salaries players get, the reality is their living costs are in proportion to the earnings just like anybody else.

But if the alternative between a player taking a pay cut or not is a club dying and them not getting paid at all, then maybe it should be considered – but who are we to make that judgement?

The subject of the “Toronto money” has been rightly raised too. The 11 Super League clubs received a bonus handout courtesy of the Wolfpack’s elevation to the top flight – which although only small in the grand scheme of things, should have at least meant a month or two of grace.

There are worries over central funding – with it underpinned by a TV deal which requires a minimum number of games to be played.

Super League is perhaps fortunate that this is only dependent on two live games a week throughout the season – as opposed to the NRL, which shows every game; the primary reason they did their very best to play on, even playing a complete round behind closed doors.

As advertisers pull their budgets and customers cancel their subscriptions, the TV companies will be looking for ways that they too can reduce their overheads; and that doesn’t bode well for sports clubs that rely on this broadcast revenue.

It’s only been a week or so, and already I’m sick of seeing clubs playing Connect 4 with each other.

If and when rugby league does return, embrace it and remember – there are far worse things to moan about.

Stay safe.

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