Scottish Rugby is working “hand in glove” with the Scottish Government around the return of club rugby, according to Chief Executive Mark Dodson.
The 2019/20 season was declared “null and void” by Scottish Rugby due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but with social distancing still a major factor in the return of elite rugby, Dodson admitted it could be some time before club rugby is able to return.
“On the professional side, we have a lot more control of the players and we have medical backup and testing in a safe environment and we can make sure everything we can possibly do is done so we can get back playing,” he told the media via a Zoom call this afternoon (Thursday).
“Our intention is to do whatever we can as soon as we can and as safely as we can.
“The message from us is that when we can get the game resumed then we will do that and we will do it as speedily as we possibly can. The clubs have the same problem as us: they have expenditure, but no income.
“We have tried to help them with expenditure through accelerated payments and the club hardship fund so they can keep the lights on and maintain the fabric of the clubs involved.
“We all have the same problem and we all share the pain so we will be working very hard to try to resume as soon as it is practical and safe to do so.”
‘It would be a massive release for people’
And Dodson was sympathetic to those thousands of players, coaches, officials and fans whose seasons were cut short due to COVID-19.
“I think it’s massive,” he said, when asked about the health benefits of rugby returning.
“If you’re a frustrated rugby player who’s been in lockdown for 11 or 12 weeks you want to get out, you want to play.
“It would be a massive release for people, and I do sympathise. But we’ve got to take it safely, take it in steps, and we’re working very hard to make sure we do it safely.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Rugby Chief Executive is similarly aware of the off-field pressures clubs across Scotland are facing.
He said that 82 clubs have received awards from the Club Hardship Fund – details of which are to be announced next week. .
More funds to be made available for clubs?
But with no immediate return for the club game on the horizon, many clubs may need further financial assistance, or some who did not apply first time round may find reserves quickly drying up.
When asked if ScottisH Rugby planned for a second installment of the CRF, Dodson said: “That’s something we can’t predict at the moment.
“The biggest problem we’ve got is that there is no time axis on this graph. This could last two months, three months, four months, five months.
“We don’t know how hardship will grow through that process.
“Most of the clubs have taken the view of trying to mothball themselves until they’ve actually got more information.
“Other clubs are more keen to get started and feel they want to get started as soon as possible.
“As it stands at the moment, there is no provision within the advice from Scottish rugby regarding when we can start to resume rugby.”
Image caption: Mark Dodson, Scottish Rugby Chief Executive, spoke about the return of the club game. Image credit: Fotosport/David Gibson