Dermot Rigley. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Guinness PRO14 organisers remain confident that the competition can resume at some point in 2020.
The tournament faces a complicated path back to the field of play given its cross-border nature and it will take a significant number of factors falling into place across six different jurisdictions before they can finish the current season and look towards the next.
“We do see rugby coming back this year,” Dermot Rigley, the PRO14’s commercial director, told Sport for Business. “We are working with the chief medical officers across each union, World Rugby, and working with the health authorities in every territory to make sure we get this right.
“The Irish government gave a date of 10th of August. We are working with them on when the elite game actually comes back. We are waiting on that. We do see a return to play but how that looks is the million-dollar question.
“Social distancing, as long as that is as strict as it is now, obviously plays on how many get into a stadium, and we are working on that, but we all know this is a game, I suppose, of snakes and ladders.
“We want to make sure we do things at the right time and as safe as possible for all involved. We want to make progress and, being in the business of major events, we don’t want to have that down-the-snake potential by going too early.”
Rigley recognised the competition’s “unique position” given the participation of sides based in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy, and South Africa. The league has been on pause since March 12th and the final, due in Cardiff, has been cancelled.
“We all want to get it back but we want to get it right,” he added. “That could be a combination of initially behind closed doors, limited crowds, but definitely we want to see rugby back this year, and that means finishing off this season and then starting next season as well, but there are a lot of moving parts here.
“The great thing is we have the benefit of time now. It’s still early May and in each territory, it is going quite well from the medical side. In Italy, it’s going quite well in Ireland, and the UK are getting a handle on it as well, and South Africa a little bit different. We should have a better idea of that in the next few weeks but definitely rugby in 2020 is our ambition.”