PRO14 season suspended due to coronavirus outbreak

League organisers have taken unprecedented step following restrictions on travel imposed by Italian and Irish governments

Leinster players celebrate after winning the Pro14 Final against Glasgow Warriors last May. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson
Leinster players celebrate after winning the Pro14 Final against Glasgow Warriors last May. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson Glasgow Warriors v Leinster, Guinness Pro14 Final, Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Friday 25th May 2019. ***Please credit: Fotosport/David Gibson***

THE current Guinness PRO14 season has been suspended with immediate effect in response to the evolving COVID-19 outbreak. The length of the suspension has not been specified – although the question of when to resume the campaign will be “under constant review” according to the tournament organisers. 

A statement issued by PRO14 this afternoon said:

“The PRO14 is an international league. Cross border travel is inevitable and that brings with it unique challenges. With governments in Italy and Ireland already putting in place clear directives and restrictions around public activities and travel, the decision to suspend the competition is appropriate. It is in the best interests of everyone that games are not played at this time. The suspension has been directed by the board of Celtic Rugby DAC and will be remain under constant review.

“This is an unprecedented action for the tournament and as such no end date to the suspension can be provided at this time.”

David Jordan, Tournament Director for PRO14 Rugby, said:

“We have made this decision with everyone’s welfare foremost in our minds. With an evolving situation in the five countries that take part in Guinness PRO14 it is important to make a clear decision that is in keeping with the advice of the various governments involved.”

One difficulty for clubs at present is not knowing how long they should keep on training for. If and when they are told a date for the competition to resume, they can then decide whether to give their players a short break.

Glasgow Warriors only resumed training today after having some time off following their most recent match, the defeat in Leinster on 28th February. As things stood at mid-afternoon, their players were due to come into Scotstoun again for training tomorrow.

Edinburgh had been due to fly out to South Africa on Saturday and play their next two games there – against the Southern Kings on 21st March then against the Cheetahs a week later.  The two Scottish teams have now issued near-identical statements expressing their support of and understanding for the suspension.

Both Glasgow and Edinburgh said they were “fully supportive of the Guinness PRO14’s decision to today suspend the league indefinitely in response to the evolving COVID-19 outbreak,” and continued:

“The club has been working closely with both the Guinness PRO14 and Scottish Rugby around this decision and will continue to do so as the situation develops. The health and safety of all our players, teams, staff and supporters is paramount and this has been the central factor in the decision-making process.

“Further updates will be provided in due course, and we will communicate any relevant information we receive to all of our stakeholders in a timely manner. We understand the severity of the current situation regarding COVID-19 and we thank our supporters for their patience and understanding.”

A statement issued by EPCR, the organisers of the European Champions and Challenge Cups said:

“EPCR notes the suspension of the Guinness PRO14 season and continues to liaise with the relevant league and union bodies regarding next month’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-final matches while closely monitoring developments in relation to COVID-19.

“An update regarding the matches will be communicated as soon as practicable, and in the meantime, EPCR remains fully supportive of the preventative measures which have been introduced to date in the interest of overall public health and will respect further directives by governments and local authorities.”

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About David Barnes 3957 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.