Travel restrictions across the five territories that the PRO14 Championship operates in are at the heart of the decision to suspend the championship until further notice.
Tournament director David Jordan and the PRO14 management have been working hard over the last three weeks to find solutions to the challenges of the coronavirus, that has shut down several sporting events across the globe.
Jordan said it was ‘near impossible’ to carry on running the championship while receiving directives from the various chief medical officers of the five counties the PRO14 operates in.
‘We’ve obviousy engaged with this for three weeks. We had to cancel a match between the two Italian teams. But it has been such an evolving situation, it changes on a day-to-day basis,’ Jordan said.
‘For example, we did manage to get Dragons vs Treviso off last Friday, and it was perfectly OK for Treviso to travel, we did all the necessary tests. There was no reason from health authorities that they could not travel.
‘Since then we have had a complete lockdown in Italy, where every day they have added more and more cities and teams can’t travel. In Ireland we are not at the same stage as Italy, but there is a type of lockdown where they are telling people to stay at home, don’t travel if you don’t have to and have closed the schools.
‘It makes it near enough impossible for us to contemplate the idea that we can carry on running a tournament when all these things are going on around us. I’d like to underline that we are dealing with six national governments. Every country is at different stages and the measures are different. We don’t know what future measures might be.’
The travel restrictions currently in Ireland and Italy have made it impossible to host games there, while teams have their own concerns about possible future restrictions that could be added.
‘For instance some of our teams head down to South Africa, and one of the concerns they are having is if travel restrictions are imposed can they get out again,’ Jordan added. ‘We have to deal with a much more complex set of problems than perhaps a national competition has where you are only dealing with one territory and one government regulator. In our case there are a whole array of different people. It is an ever-moving, ever-changing environment.
‘We felt the responsible and practical thing to do was to say pause, and we will look at resuming at some stage in the future and take a sensible view on this from a player-welfare point of view. But not just from that, but also from a staff-and-fan welfare point of view. And just take a step back and hopefully in a few weeks’ time we might look at resuming.’
PRO14 Rugby will review the situation periodically and make any announcements when necessary.
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