The prospect of a UK and Ireland-based Lions tour has reportedly encountered struggles related to convincing the UK government to underwrite the tour.
It is understood that in order for the series to be financially viable, it would require that stadiums be at 25% capacity as a minimum. The UK government has already laid out a roadmap that would have crowds return to sports stadiums by 21 June (before the series begins).
However, according to a report in The Times, government is seemingly unwilling to commit to that date by giving financial assurances to the Lions that should the series go ahead with no fans in attendance, it would cover the losses.
In contrast, Rugby Australia, who has made its intentions to host the series crystal clear, has given exactly those financial assurances. RA’s offer to underwrite the Lions tour has been described as a ‘game changer’ and may influence the final decision on where the tour is likely to take place.
The Lions board is currently deep in discussions about the future of the tour, with nothing concrete confirmed as yet. It is expected to reach a decision by the end of March but could do so as early as next week.
Meanwhile, SA Rugby Player of the Year Duane Vermeulen has said that although it would be greatly disappointing if the Lions series could not go ahead in South Africa, the chief priority is that it goes ahead at all this year.
It’s a position previously echoed by a host of other Springboks, including Faf de Klerk, as well as England and Wales captains Owen Farrell and Alun Wyn Jones.
A combination of SA Rugby’s concerning financial position and a host of logistical challenges, means it is highly unlikely that the Lions series can be postponed until 2022.