English rugby in turmoil as Premiership players consider strike action over proposed pay cuts as clubs take drastic action to stay afloat
- Players have been advised to consider strike action over impending pay cuts
- Employees at most Premiership clubs are set to take a 25% cut in wages
- Clubs are cutting costs to offset loss of revenue following suspension of season
English rugby is in turmoil as players were being advised to consider strike action after Premiership clubs demanded swingeing pay cuts amid fears of impending financial disaster.
Sportsmail can reveal that senior officials are already braced for the suspension of the top division until June at the earliest, despite an initial postponement period expiring on the weekend of April 24-26.
The RFU announced yesterday that all competitive rugby below the Premiership is cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign — but the leading clubs are determined to ensure that their league reaches a conclusion.
Premiership rugby is in turmoil with players considering strike action over potential pay cuts
Most top-flight clubs have informed their players of wage cuts after fixture postponements
Players could refuse to train as whole squads until they are given financial guarantees
Employees at the majority of Premiership clubs have been told that they will have to accept a 25 per cent reduction in wages due to the loss of match-day revenue.
Players are mindful of the pro- found impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but there is a militant mood in some quarters because the guidance is that full pay will not be reinstated until fixtures resume, rather than when there is a return to full training, which will be sooner.
Sources have revealed that there have been talks about the possibility of refusing to train as full squads until there are assurances that salaries will return to contracted levels. Players have been advised that the clubs’ actions are illegal and represent breach of contract.
Many have agreed to accept the drastic measures but the guidance is that they would be free to find another club or take legal action if they see fit.
Indications last night were that most top-flight clubs have informed their players of wage cuts. These include Harlequins, Leicester, Sale, Saracens, Wasps and Worcester. It is unclear if Exeter, London Irish and Northampton will follow suit, but there have been calls for a unified approach to the predicament.
Clubs making cuts have insisted these are essential steps to stave off the threat of bankruptcy
Clubs making cuts have insisted these are essential steps to stave off the threat of bankruptcy and that prospect appears to loom large. Officials have grave concerns that at least two clubs could go out of business soon.
Newcastle — who should return to the Premiership next season — are understood to have warned players that they might not be paid. Desperate efforts are being made to stay afloat after remaining Championship fixtures were cancelled.
Wasps are a marquee name in English rugby but they are thought to be sitting on a debt mountain since relocating to Coventry and launching an ambitious bond scheme.
Worcester are another club regarded as being at risk and there may be others if this shutdown period drags on into the summer.
Last year, each club received £13.5million after private equity firm CVC bought a commercial stake in the Premiership. This season, Saracens’ rivals each received a £350,000 cut from their fine for salary cap infringements. However, these windfalls don’t appear to have sufficiently reinforced bank accounts.
Newcastle Falcons are making desperate measures to ensure they stay afloat in months ahead
Clubs are angry vital funding may be withheld by Premiership Rugby (PRL). While there has been speculation that BT Sport had withdrawn payments to PRL because of the sudden loss of fixtures to televise, multiple sources have claimed payments are up-to-date.
PRL have considered holding funds in case they need to reimburse the broadcaster. There have also been suggestions PRL are refusing to release funds from a £30m contingency pot.
Another accusation is that the PRL hierarchy have stated they will not contemplate pay cuts of their own, despite calling for clubs to mount a unified cam- paign to keep the game solvent.
There has been no official response from PRL, merely hints about unspecified financial and staffing cuts.
Meanwhile, the RFU have informed staff that some of them must accept reduced hours or unpaid leave.
However, the union have refused to confirm if chief executive Bill Sweeney and other top executives will be taking pay cuts in light of concerns about the financial outlook for the sport.
If the club season can be resur- rected, European competitions are certain to be sacrificed in an attempt to ensure the Premier- ship is played to a conclusion.
But any push to extend the campaign beyond June 30, when many contracts will expire, would create chaos.
HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR
2020 OLYMPIC GAMES
The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.
Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.
That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.
The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present. The start of the Japanese relay, in Fukushima, will take place without fans, and local governments are cancelling their welcoming ceremonies.
The scale of the outbreak in Japan saw senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound describe the disease as ‘the new war’ threatening Tokyo 2020 and he warned the Games may have to be cancelled if the virus was still around by May.
Olympic organisers told athletes to train as normal with no decision on cancellation
The Japanese government later insisted Pound’s comments were not the IOC’s official stance but there remains doubts over whether the summer showcase can still go ahead with health concerns.
Athletes have been told to keep training and the plan remains to hold the Games in Japan as planned but training for around 80,000 volunteers has been delayed for at least until May – it was due to begin on February 22.
On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.
‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.
On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24.
Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19.
World Athletics chief Lord Coe claimed it is too early to cancel this summer’s Tokyo Olympics but has warned it could be done if necessary on March 19.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread
North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.
The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.
The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part.
The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.
Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.
The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.
The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.
Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July
The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.
That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena.
Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28).
The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part.
Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed.
Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June.
England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.
The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.
On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far.
The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.
On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.
Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April.
England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.
Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May.
The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease.
Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation
The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling.
The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.
This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.
All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.
The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius
The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium.
On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set.
All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.
Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.
The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.
Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable.
Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy
Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.
In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.
In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.
Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least.
The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.
The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29.
Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.
The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.
FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.
On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.
Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June.
Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus
Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game.
Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears.
Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Blaise Matuidi of Juventus also tested positive for coronavirus.
Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.
In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic.
Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.
Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.
FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.
In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.
The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed.
Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.
West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.
Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.
Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead.
The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead.
The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5.
It is hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 will be the first race of the new season but there are increasing fears that a large chunk of the Formula One calendar will be missed due to Covid-19.
The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 still looks under threat.
The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead
On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.
The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.
After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12.
They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.
The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.
The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.
The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War
Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus.
The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened.
The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.
Racing in Ireland is to take place behind closed doors starting until March 29.
The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’.
The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus
This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.
England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game.
Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches.
The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.
Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed
The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks.
The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.
The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.
The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.
The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year.
Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.
All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks.
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour. It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.
The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.
China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.
WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.
The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.
The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.
The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.
In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers.
The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume.
The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand.
South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off.
The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.
A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.
The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.
The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.
All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors
In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’.
The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.
Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed.
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