RFL still hoping to save Kangaroos series

Ian Laybourn

England's Rugby Football League is battling to preserve the Ashes Series with Australia and has changed its rules on insolvency in a bid to keep clubs afloat during the shutdown.

The decision by Australia's National Rugby League to suspend its domestic season indefinitely due to the global coronavirus pandemic increases the likelihood that the eagerly-awaited Kangaroos tour in October and November will be cancelled.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer, who admits that would present a huge financial blow to the English game ahead of the 2021 World Cup in this country, says the NRL decision came as no surprise.

"We were expecting it," he told the PA news agency.

"I've been speaking to (NRL chief executive) Todd (Greenberg) on a regular basis so I knew what their situation was.

"Everything is inter-linked so all those things have an ability to impact on us.

"In all the scenario planning we've done, which has been plentiful, what's happening on the other side of the world has been taken into consideration."

Rimmer effectively ruled out a series against other nationalities taking the place of the first Kangaroos tour since 2003.

"I don't think that would be feasible because, whatever restrictions apply to the Australians would similarly apply to most of the other teams willing to tour because many of those players would be enshrined within the NRL and UK competitions," he said.

"At the moment, we're aiming towards the Ashes. It's hugely important to us and it's there as an hors d'oeuvre to the World Cup in 2021.

"But nevertheless there are forces at work that are far greater at this moment in time.

"The game is under stress, the world is under stress, and we all have to acknowledge that times are changing and we have to give where necessary in order to make things work.

"I don't exactly know which one of the permutations it will be at the end of the year, it will be dependent on several other factors."

The decision by the RFL, in conjunction with Super League, to postpone all fixtures at least until April 3 is putting added stress on clubs' finances and Rimmer admits the possibility of some part-time outfits going to the wall cannot be ruled out.

"It's not impossible," he said. "This is a new set of stresses that nobody has faced before so we're not being naive.

"We have redressed the position in the operational rules on insolvency laws that would normally apply.

"We have built in some flexibility on that - we did that with the board last week - so we're ready to react if that were to be the case. Hopefully it won't be, the Government support will be very helpful in all that."

Rimmer says he will update the Super League clubs on the latest situation via a conference call on Tuesday.