The Super League clash between Catalans and Leeds will be played behind closed doors at the Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday.
The decision has been made following concerns raised by the French government regarding the spread of Coronavirus, and after consultation between both clubs, the RFL and Super League.
Dragons Chairman Bernard Guasch: “Following the unprecedented decision of the French Minister of Sports, the Dragons’ choice was to switch the fixtures. Unfortunately, the Leeds Rhinos club did not accept our request.
“We then proposed to postpone the match and to play it later in the season, midweek or weekend depending on the Cup results of each club. We even offer a financial compensation to Leeds club for their additional travelling costs.
“Remember that we were in the same situation a month ago in Wakefield without solution or possible compensation for the canceled game due to bad weather. To date, we are still waiting for Wakefield and the RFL to reschedule this match.
“Unfortunately the RFL, the Leeds Rhinos and the RFL Board did not hear our reasons, even after appealing the decision, and told us to play the game as scheduled.
“We strongly regret this decision which will hugely impact the finances of the club with revenues already anticipated in our annual budget.
“Unable to find a solution to choose only 1,000 supporters from our 5,500 season ticket holders and sponsors, the club has chosen to play behind closed doors.”
The RFL confirmed that their reluctance to postpone the game was in part due to the absence of free weekends later in the season, including Catalans’ game at St Helens which was postponed due to the World Club Challenge.
They also considered the unreasonable financial impact on Leeds if the fixture was switched and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the competition.
More than 200 Leeds fans had purchased tickets for the game, with many more expected to have already made arrangements to travel.
The Rhinos have two trips to France this year, with their second visit to the Dragons due to be played in Toulouse.
Leeds’ own statement said: “As a club, we fully accept that this is an incredibly difficult, unprecedented situation and our sympathies are with Catalans Dragons, who have been impacted by the current ban of large crowds gathering in France. No fans of either team will be permitted to enter the stadium at Saturday’s game.
“The team will fly out from Leeds Bradford Airport on Friday morning to Barcelona before travelling north to Perpignan. Leeds will return home on Sunday afternoon.”
Catalans next home game, against Toronto on April 11, could also yet be impacted, as the decree put down by the French government also covers that match date.