RFU cancels domestic season bar Gallagher Premiership

There are nine rugby players who are claiming that the governing bodies failed to protect them from the effects of concussion. Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) have announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 domestic rugby season, excluding the Gallagher Premiership, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision means the end of this season's RFU Championship among other competitions, including cup competitions. Subsequently, the Newcastle Falcons have finished top of the Championship, 18 points clear of second-place Ealing Trailfinders.

Scottish Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union also announced on Friday that their domestic seasons would not recommence.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said in a statement on Friday that the governing body is in the process of deciding the implications of ending the season early and plans to announce its decision next month.

Sweeney said: "My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19 as well as recent flooding events, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community.

"In order to provide clarity and to assist with immediate and longer term planning, the Rugby Football Union is announcing the end of the 2019-20 rugby season for all league, cup and county rugby in England. The only exception to this is the Gallagher Premiership, who we are in active discussions with to review possible best next steps.

"When current government advice on social distancing measures changes, we will naturally encourage rugby training and friendlies to recommence.

"While we would like to provide all the answers now, we need some time to get it right for the best interests of the game. Rest assured we are working on this as a priority and we will continue to send weekly updates to clubs."

Sweeney said that England rugby's governing body faces a range of financial implications as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

World Rugby also announced a number of postponements and cancellations in a statement on Friday.

The London Sevens, due to take place in Twickenham on May 23 and 24, has been postponed until later in the year while the combined Sevens Series in Paris has also been postponed until September.

The World Rugby Under-20 Championship , scheduled to be hosted in northern Italy in late June and July, has been cancelled. The organisation also said it was in contact with the International Olympics Committee over qualification events due to take place in June.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: "We stand in solidarity with the global rugby family and people around the world at this exceptional and difficult time, and I will ensure we continue to do everything in our power to protect the wellbeing of the global rugby family and the wider public."

More than half of Premiership clubs are preparing to ask their players to take a 25% pay cut due to the postponement of professional rugby in the coronavirus outbreak, sources have told ESPN.

Gloucester and Sale Sharks are set to hold meetings with their players, according to ESPN sources, while a number of the Premiership's other clubs are also weighing up the cost-cutting measure with rugby's top flight postponed until April 24 at the earliest.

"We benefit from strong Twickenham Stadium revenues but we are also exposed if there is widespread cancellation of games and events," Sweeney added.

"In this extraordinary situation we are working through a range of potential financial scenarios dependent mainly on the length of this crisis. This was already budgeted to be a loss making year within a four-year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign and only hosting two home Six Nations games.

"The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the entire country. There may well also be much longer term financial implications which we are assessing now. It is therefore taking us some time to develop a considered position on how we can support clubs and the rugby community, which we will do.

"We have already undertaken financial measures to safeguard the business enabling us to review all options and programmes to provide support for clubs in these difficult times."