Sport’s return from lockdown: RFU outlines plan for community rugby return as Tokyo debates ‘simplified’ Olympics – The Telegraph

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FOOTBALL: Premier League pushes back vote on curtailment permutations

From our Chief Football Writer, Sam Wallace:

Premier League clubs have decided to push back a vote on a rule change to decide what happens in the event of a curtailment until if or when they face that problem.

It means the season is likely to restart on June 17 with no agreement as to how final places are decided – including relegation- in the event of the 2019-2020 season having to be abandoned.

The clubs voted 16-4 in favour of an increase to five substitutes at a Premier League shareholders meeting today via conference call. It is understood Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Bournemouth and West Ham voted against the change.

More to follow

FOOTBALL: Breaking – Premier League announces five substitute amendment

Teams will be allowed to make five substitutions per game upon the resumption of the Premier League, the governing body has announced.

The purpose of the change is to help manage the workload of players who are returning to action after the suspension of the Premier League due to the coronavirus pandemic, and who are likely to have very little further break before the 2020-21 campaign begins.

The Bundesliga, which returned in May, has adopted the five substitutes rule.

Substitutions can only be made at a maximum of three points in a match, to avoid unnecessary delays.

FOOTBALL: Lower tiers say Premier League will be ‘let off the hook’ if not forced to share profits

Clubs down the football pyramid fear that the Government has “moved on” and let the Premier League “off the hook” despite Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s suggestion that Project Restart was dependent on sharing the financial rewards through “the entire football family”.

Telegraph Sport revealed on Wednesday the sense of despair not just through the English Football League and National League, which have been advanced their usual solidarity payments, but in women’s football, semi-professional football and the grassroots game.

You can read the rest of Jeremy Wilson’s outline of the Culture Secretary’s press conference here.

TENNIS: British No 1 Dan Evans: ‘I hated myself during cocaine ban’

British number one Dan Evans has revealed that he “hated myself” during his 12-month ban from professional tennis as a result of a positive cocaine test in 2017.

In an interview published today, Evans also said that a sports psychologist he visited during this difficult time had described him as “one of the angriest people he had ever spoken to”.

You can read more of Simon Briggs’ news story here.

RUGBY: RFU’s six-stage roadmap for the return of community rugby

Credit: RFU

Sweeney on whether there will be crowds in the autumn

He says crowds at Twickenham this autumn depends on how the Government updates its guidance. Whether social distancing guidelines are reduced to one metre or not might have a large impact on crowds at Twickenham.

We have run every model: behind closed doors, two-metre or one-metre social distancing, and no distancing to get a sense of what that does (and how it would work at Twickenham).

Bill Sweeney on community clubs’ concerns about funding

We put together the club support fund at the beginning and we were surprised at the relatively low uptake of that. It was a small number.

I’m in regular contact with the NCA and all the clubs (in the national leagues) are doing a fantastic job to keep revenues coming in.

We are in a constant dialogue with them.

Sweeney on the autumn internationals continued

Sweeney admits that a home and away Six Nations is one of the contingency plans being looked at for the autumn window.

It’s possible, with pros and cons, and is currently being evaluated.

RFU CEO Bill Sweeney on autumn rugby

The preference from north and south is that the original programme would go ahead. We had four Tests scheduled, but they are driven by international travel guidelines

Both north and south are developing back-up contingency plans. Our plans is for an autumn series to go ahead. Who it’s against? We cannot say with certainty.

He suggests that there might be a northern hemisphere mini-tournament, but that the RFU is planning for some form of autumn rugby.

Conor O’Shea now addresses the high-performance areas of rugby

We are learning a lot. The players have been great with some of the younger, pathway players (in their virtual interactions).

When we come out of this, we will have learnt lots on how we interact with players and clubs. 

Everyone is desperate to get back to rugby and I really hope and believe that this is a moment in time. We have seen what’s happened since 1995 (and professionalism) and how the game has grown, but we have seen the fault lines.

It’s been busier strategically rather than on the pitch. But hopefully we have used these few months really well so that the strategy has been done so we can hit the ground running with the players, coaches and referees.

Every conversation I’ve had has shown a real will to get this right once and for all.

Grainger on plans for community rugby to return

Our ongoing work at the moment is looking at three key areas: how we might look at returning to leagues next season; secondly is on alternative options for if the league programme does not start according to plan, to keep players engaged; and thirdly, how clubs can reopen safely, to take back their pivotal place in the community, and take back their key revenue. But we have to be guided by Government and scientific advice.

He outlines three possible dates for a return of club rugby: early September; late October/early November; or Jan 2021.

Steve Grainger – RFU Rugby Development Director

We knew we had a great group of volunteers in the community game. But I think the response has surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Many clubs are receipt of Government grants – which has been a major boost to community rugby clubs.

There is no immediate crisis in the community. But I stress the word ‘immediate’ there.

However, there is a clear inability for clubs to raise funds over the summer that they normally would – beer festivals, end-of-season dinners etc. That’s becoming a major concern for many of them.

More from Sweeney

He adds:

I don’t think anything that has happened previously could have prepared us all for managing this experience.

The executive team is in good shape and we have a very supportive board. The level of interaction and transparency in terms of where we are is very thorough.

We are making good progress.

‘Without the community game, we would not have a sport in this country’

Sweeney is speaking about the RFU’s phased plan on how it plans to ease lockdown restrictions and get players back on the field.

Preparing for new world and new landscapes. It’s going to be different. This is not a 12-month bump in the road. The consequences of this crisis will be with us for some time.

The community game is absolutely critical; our life blood. Look at the good acts – supporting the NHS, food banks – a rugby club is a lot more than a rugby club. It’s a community hub.

Without the community game, we would not have a sport in this country.

RUGBY: RFU CEO set to address the media

We will be bringing live updates of Bill Sweeney’s press conference from around 12.05pm.

Stay tuned.

FOOTBALL: Huddersfield confirm positive Covid-19 test

Huddersfield have confirmed that one of their staff members tested positive for Covid-19 during the latest round of testing at Sky Bet Championship clubs.

A club statement added: “The individual will not be named due to medical confidentiality, but we can confirm that it is a member of the training ground support staff.

“The person in question is currently asymptomatic and will now self-isolate, in line with protocol.”

Sheffield Wednesday and Preston earlier confirmed they each had one employee among the nine people from six clubs who had tested positive out of 1,094 checks during a four-day period starting from Saturday.


‘I don’t see any negatives towards it’

Warren Gatland, head coach of the Chiefs, has had his say on the arrival of Dan Carter at the Blues.

“He’s getting a bit old now, 38 or something… [but] he has been a legend of New Zealand rugby and I don’t see any negatives towards it.

“For him to be able to come back to New Zealand and lace his boots up, I just think it’s good for the youngsters.”

Ben Te’o joins Brisbane Broncos

After Sam Burgess caused a stir yesterday, another former England international centre – with a South Sydney Rabbitohs past – is generating headlines. Ben Te’o has joined Brisbane Broncos for the current NRL season.

He has certainly had a colourful career.

Credit: Getty Images Sport 

What will ‘adapted’ cricket look like?

The ECB held a teleconference with chairmen from the Premier Leagues around the country on Wednesday but warned them the sport is “still some way” from returning.

At the moment, club cricketers can only practice in the nets with social-distancing measures in place. But the ECB hopes as lockdown eases over the coming weeks the sport will be able to resume. At first it will be what was called ‘adapted play’ in shortened format matches with restrictions on fielding positions and where umpires can stand to fit in with social distancing.

Read Nick Hoult’s full story here.

Credit: PA

Roll-over for Test match tickets

‘Change must happen now’

Coco Gauff has delivered a rousing speech delivered at a Black Lives Matter protest in Delray Beach, south Florida.

Dan Zeqiri has the full story here.

Katie Boulter volunteers for Age UK

A reminder of Simon Briggs’ interview, here.

Saracens to be allowed to complete Champions Cup schedule

A very interesting story in the Daily Mirror suggests that Saracens will be allowed to defend their Champions Cup crown, even if the competition continues after they begin their Championship schedule.

Mark McCall’s men are due to face Leinster in the quarter-finals and Champions Cup boss Simon Halliday said he would “defend their right” to play in Europe’s top tier.

“Saracens have qualified for the quarter-finals and I’ll defend their right to complete the Champions Cup campaign no matter what.

“As long as we can complete the tournament they should be allowed to participate for as long as they keep on winning.”

Credit: Action Images via Reuters 

Adidas reports China resurgence

German sportswear firm Adidas said on Thursday that sales had returned to growth in greater China faster than it had expected after the coronavirus lockdown, while the reopening of business in Europe and the Americas was going more gradually.

Adidas stuck by guidance it gave in April for a possible 40 per cent fall in second-quarter sales and a drop in second-quarter operating profit of more than 100 million EAuros (£89,455,000) and said it would give more details with results due on August 6.

While traffic to its stores in greater China stayed below that of last year in May, that was more than offset by a rise in how much shoppers were spending and a surge in ecommerce sales, leading to an overall increase in revenue for the month.

Adidas said it now expected second-quarter sales for the region to be around the same level as last year.

It said about three quarters of its stores had reopened in Europe, although with most operating at reduced hours. About half in Russia are open again, but fewer than half its stores in the Americas are back in business.


Dan Carter confirmed

It is official. New Zealand great Dan Carter has joined the Blues on a short-term contract for Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Here is a quote from Carter, who joins up with Leon MacDonald, Blues coach and his former Crusaders and All Blacks teammate.

I have really missed rugby over these last few months. When Leon called me with an opportunity to join the squad as a replacement player, I just couldn’t pass it up. I have loved playing abroad but this is a great chance to play at home again close to my family, and give back to NZ Rugby whilst sharing my experience with the next generation of players, however I can.

“Simplified” Olympics on the cards

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday it may be necessary to a stage a “simplified” Olympics next year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and that organisers were already discussing possible changes.

Koike’s comments come after the Yomiuri newspaper reported that various options, such as mandatory coronavirus testing and having fewer spectators, were being considered by organisers.

John Coates, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) inspectorate for Tokyo, has said a lack of a defence against the new coronavirus threatened the Games and organisers had to start planning for what could be a “very different” Olympics if there were no signs of Covid-19 being eradicated.

Koike did not go into details but said such discussions were necessary.

“Holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games calls for sympathy and understanding of Tokyoites and the Japanese people,” Koike told reporters.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike answers questions during the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly plenary session on June 2 Credit: AFP

“For that, we need to rationalise what needs to be rationalised and simplify what needs to be simplified.”

The Yomiuri, citing government and organising committee sources, said making Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests mandatory for all spectators — in addition to athletes and staff — and limiting movement in and out of the athletes village were among the options Japan would discuss with the IOC.

The IOC and Japanese government in March took the unprecedented decision to delay the Games, which had been due to start in July, for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A further delay beyond 2021 has been ruled out.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 6.4 million people and killed about 380,000 around the world. Japan has avoided the kind of explosive outbreak seen in countries such as the United States and Brazil, with about 17,000 infections and 900 known deaths to date.


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