The British & Irish Lions tour is set to go ahead in South Africa as originally planned, with the contingency to relocate the tour to the UK dismissed.
According to the Telegraph, the Lions board dismissed the contingency of relocating the tour to the UK and Ireland due to concerns over logistics and costs, while it is still unclear whether UK-based fans will be able to return to stadiums by July and August.
SARugbymag.co.za has independently verified that information around the tour now taking place as originally planned in South Africa is accurate, and this has been communicated in local rugby circles.
The Lions will open their tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on 3 July, and while the series may have to take place behind closed doors, there is hope that some capacity for fans could be accommodated.
Of course, this will all depend on the status of the pandemic in South Africa at the time.
In further information from the Telegraph report, the Lions board had reportedly sought guarantees from the UK government over underwriting costs for the tour, but reports stated that none were forthcoming.
In order to make a relocation to the UK viable, a minimum stadium capacity of 25% would need to be guaranteed, but this is not possible without a clear roadmap out of lockdown.
This meant that the only remaining option is for the tour to continue in South Africa as originally planned, after Rugby Australia’s offer to host the tour was also turned down.
‘If it is possible, the RFU is supportive of the Lions tour going ahead in South Africa as planned,’ a spokesperson of England’s RFU said.
RA promised capacity crowds in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane, adding that profits from the Test series would be split between the Springboks and Lions. However, there were concerns over the costs of relocating the tour there as well as loss of revenue should a short-term lockdown be implemented in any of the cities.
The report goes on to state that SA Rugby and the Lions board remain in conversation and that an official announcement around the tour is expected soon.
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