BHA confident of return to action in Britain despite French setback

‘We are making good progress as we prepare for June 1’: BHA confident of racing resumption in Britain despite French suffering shock setback

  • Fench racing in turmoil after the sport was suddenly halted in its key regions
  • The French government stopped any racing in Paris and the north on Tuesday
  • There will be no racing at least until the next review of the transition on June 2
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The BHA have said the fact French racing has been forced to close tracks in Paris and in the east of the country should have no ramifications for the resumption of racing in Britain.

Racing’s ruling body has steered clear of using overseas jurisdictions whose racing has either continued or resumed as evidence as to why British racing should return.

A spokesman for the BHA said: ‘Our proposal has always been that racing will be ready to return safely in Britain as soon as the UK Government permits the resumption of sporting events.

There will be no more racing at Longchamp, where the sport resumed in France on May 11

‘Our plans are being developed with officials from Public Health England and will be in line with UK government policy. We are making good progress as we prepare for a resumption on June 1.’

Final Government approval for the return of British racing has yet to be received.

Racing returned in France on May 11 at Longchamp but the French Government backtracked when announcing on Tuesday that no track inside Red Zones of high COVID-19 infections rates can now race.

Today’s scheduled meeting at Longchamp has been switched to Deauville on the Normandy coast.

French racing was thrown into chaos on Tuesday after being told to shut down its Paris tracks

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Ruthless RFU must act and hand grassroots clubs a lifeline

CHRIS FOY: Ruthless RFU must act and hand grassroots clubs a lifeline during the coronavirus crisis

  • The RFU must provide financial aid to clubs during the coronavirus crisis
  • Midlands 1 East club Peterborough found they would not receive funding
  • The RFU’s annual report said it wants to encourage rugby across England 

When the RFU released their annual report in December, the grand document contained an opening page which stated: ‘Our purpose: to encourage rugby, and its values, to flourish across England.’ 

At Peterborough Rugby Club, they now doubt the sincerity of that message. 

Last Thursday, hours after RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney had announced Eddie Jones’s contract as England head coach — worth £750,000 per year — would be extended until the conclusion of the 2023 World Cup, the Midlands 1 East club learned that they would not be entitled to any funding from Twickenham to alleviate the coronavirus shutdown. 

The RFU and Bill Sweeney must hand grassroots clubs a lifeline during the coronavirus crisis

An administrative oversight had already proved costly. Last summer, they were a day late submitting a declaration to the RFU that, as a level-six amateur club, they do not pay players. 

The deadline was strictly enforced and the union withheld funding for the 2019-20 season. 

Peterborough appealed in vain at a time they needed money to expand their clubhouse, to accommodate a thriving age grade set-up. Each weekend, they host up to 500 juniors. 

Now Peterborough have been stunned to discover their one-day delay is being held against them during this virus crisis. 

The union have said they won’t receive emergency funds, when they fear the loss of between £60,000 and £80,000 due to the cancellation of beer festivals, weddings, dinners, dog shows and other functions. 

Midlands 1 East club Peterborough learned they would not receive funding from Twickenham

This is another example of the governing body acting as a ruthless business, apparently more mindful of profit than the wellbeing of the sport around the country. 

Last autumn, clubs were told that funds would be available to promote the World Cup in their clubhouses, so Peterborough and others in their region made grand plans, only to discover the money being offered through the East Midlands RFU was just £50 each for 10 clubs. 

In their annual report, the RFU announced revenue of £213million for the 2018-19 financial year — a rise of 24 per cent and more than twice as much as the New Zealand Rugby Union. Yet there was a reduction in investment for rugby development, while spending on the men’s senior national team remains ‘ring-fenced’. 

Earlier this year, Sweeney announced savage cuts to funding for clubs in the RFU Championship. He was castigated by officials from those clubs for the cuts, the lack of warning and consultation, and a dearth of compassion. 

Clubs are seeking financial aid in the chaos caused by the deadly coronavirus pandemic

More recently, the RFU stayed silent as the pandemic took hold while their counterparts in Scotland and Wales promised vital bailout investment. When they eventually announced aid measures, the primary concern appeared to be future union losses rather than short-term hardship at grassroots level. 

This column has seen correspondence between officials within the club game expressing anger and dismay at the union. 

A former senior Twickenham figure wrote: ‘The RFU’s failure to announce immediate financial support to clubs is a disgrace and shows the RFU management board is incompetent and not fit for purpose. Clubs may well go under, never to be resurrected.’ 

There are rumblings that clubs will attempt to force a special general meeting, with a view to pushing for a vote of no confidence in the hierarchy. At a time when true leadership is needed, English rugby is lamenting the absence of it. 

Out in the shires, they want the RFU to be fit for their published purpose. That could mean relaxing regulations and red tape to help Peterborough and other clubs in need and the game at large. Count the costs some other time. 

Five key chances predicted for rugby 

Rugby management company Esportif have published their 2020 international rugby report, which contains fascinating data from the leading nations. It predicts five key changes in rugby by 2025. These include global calendar alignment (long craved but not realised), a British and Irish league — causing a reduction in European competition, and growth in the USA on the back of a successful bid to host the World Cup. 

The latter should come to pass as there is set to be a tournament in the Americas in 2027. A British and Irish league would have great appeal, but only if some continental competition was retained — and if steps were taken to avoid Italian professional rugby ceasing to exist.

Growth in the USA is one of a number of big changes predicted for rugby by 2025

The Last Word 

Finn Russell has been in regular contact with Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, with a view to ending their feud and allowing the Racing 92 fly-half to return from Test exile. 

Reflecting on the dispute which saw Russell abruptly depart the Scottish camp, miss the Six Nations and reveal a strained relationship with Townsend, he told BT Sport: ‘Things got blown out of proportion. It’s not like there was a massive disagreement where I was saying, “I’ll never play for you again”. That’s the target we’ve both got; to be on the same page and working together — better than ever.’ 

Here’s hoping they resolve their differences. Whenever this shutdown ends, rugby needs all of its great entertainers to raise morale and reignite the sport. Russell is a fixture in that category. It is not just Scots who want to see him operating at the top level again as soon as possible. 

Here’s hoping Finn Russell can return from Test exile at the end of the coronavirus crisis

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Golf set for late surge of action as chiefs attempt to salvage season

Golf on course for surge of action late in 2020 as chiefs attempt to salvage the Masters and the Open with coronavirus decimating the golfing calendar

  • Golf chiefs are looking to find a way to ensure all majors are played this season 
  • The Masters and the Open have been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis
  • The majors may be squeezed either side of the Ryder Cup in autumn this year

Golf chiefs are looking to find a way to ensure that all majors are played this season as the postponements caused by the coronavirus pandemic could see a surge of action later in the year.

The Masters and the Open have both fallen victim as the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar, with an October restart pencilled in for the former, while the latter may begin in September. 

The US Women’s Open has already been rescheduled from June to December, which could set a course of action for other events to be moved, with golf chiefs now trying to salvage the season.

Golf chiefs are looking to find a way to salvage the season so that all majors can be played

The Masters and the Open have already been postponed as coronavirus continues to spread

Options remain open for the R&A, with the possibility that the Open could be cancelled still viable for golf bodies, given that the restart date may be considered too close to the Ryder Cup in September. 

The US Open is set to be postponed next week, and could be played in California or Florida in October. That would push the Masters into November.   

The US Women’s Open has already been rescheduled from June to December and more is expected to follow

The Open, which is to played in Sandwich, could be moved just before the Ryder Cup

‘Clearly there is a high degree of collaborating,’ said Craig Annis of the USGA who run the US Open via The Mirror.

‘At this point we are not in a position to confirm any specific dates. The intent is to have clarity soon.’ 

The late onrush of events will see the qualification process for the Ryder Cup squeezed, with Team Europe looking to retain the cup at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin.  

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