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"Without crowds the game is finished": European rugby chief's warning


European rugby's chairman has issued a stark warning about the game's future if it continues behind closed doors. 

As part of the Irish government's 'Living with Covid-19' plan, crowds of up to 200 people are permitted in outdoor stadia that have an accredited capacity of 5,000.

While smaller grounds will be able to admit 100 people.

Similar restrictions could remain in place until April of 2021, it's been warned.

The UK government has also suspended plans to gradually reintroduce fans from October 1, with Michael Gove saying, "The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it's in the nature of major sporting events that there's a lot of mingling."

But speaking to BT Sports on Friday night, Simon Halliday said the outlook is grim, "The whole European game is about crowds and fans, together with the best teams from across Europe playing against each other.

"Over the last two weeks or so, every union, every club, has said the same thing - without crowds, the game's finished.

"We will have to ask the governments across Europe what they're going to do to sort this out, because ultimately, are we all waiting for a hand-out or are we trying to safely get crowds back into the stadium?

"I really do think that we need to look at this again because the warnings are real.

"And it's not just the professional game, it's also the amateur game where players can't even play the game at the moment."

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said earlier in the week, "The worst case scenario if this goes on and on and on – which I don’t believe it will because I believe we will see some turnaround next year in terms of vaccines – but if this goes on indefinitely, you have to question whether the professional game is sustainable at all."

The IRFU, FAI and the GAA have formed a unit to discuss with the government the best way to allow fans to return to stadiums.

In England, the Gallagher Premiership has requested a government "rescue package" having warned of "irreparable damage to our clubs" by the lack of crowds.

Gloucester chief executive Lance Bradley said this week, "I don't want to sound over-dramatic but it can't be for six months if we want to have professional rugby survive in the format that we know".

Halliday says that doomsday scenario is approaching reality unless it receives state aid, "This game's been going on for hundreds of years, and we're going to let this define us? I really struggle with that.

"And we've got to keep asking the question, and across Europe, and as chairman of this competition that's where we sit. And representing the stakeholders, I think there's a massive question to be asked."



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Champions Cup Coronavirus Covid-19 Heineken Champions Cup IRFU Irish Rugby Simon Halliday

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