Scottish rugby is hopeful that the government will recognise the benefits it brings to the country and will be helped out in what is freely acknowledged as a dire moment of need.
As with all sectors of society, the grim coronavirus pandemic has torn a hole in the SRU’s future projections, with a minimum of £12 million likely to be lost if the home autumn international series is scrapped.
English RFU chief Bill Sweeney told the UK government earlier this week that Twickenham internationals accounted for 85 per cent of revenue in the game south of the border. In Scotland the percentage is even higher.
SRU chief operating officer Dominic McKay was frank and honest in a conversation with media yesterday about the bleakness of the picture ahead, but sought to take positivity from a meeting with the Scottish government and the keen amateur yachtsman clung to an optimism that a path can be navigated through these choppy waters.
“It was a really positive first meeting, and importantly it was ourselves and football together as the two main sports in Scotland, talking with one voice around wanting to support government and how we can get the elite end of the game restarted,” said McKay.
“We gave a presentation which talked about that sort of phased introduction to training, initially for players. And from a rugby perspective what we’d want to do when it’s right and appropriate is: get individual players training at home; then individual players training at BT Murrayfield; then a big group of players training at BT Murrayfield; and then in due course those players being able to play and to train in a contact environment.
“The next level up then is potentially playing a game against each other [Glasgow v Edinburgh]. And that could be some way off.”
With the picture increasingly becoming clear that any phased release of lockdown is likely to come with tight social distancing regulations in force before treatment or, crucially, a vaccine can be found to fight this pestilent threat to the nation’s well-being, McKay was realistic.
“The focus of our presentation was about recognising that it’s going to take time. It’s a step process around training. From a rugby perspective, it’s entirely possible that it could take eight to ten weeks before our players are back up to the physical condition they would expect to be in before they could play a competitive match.
“So we’ve got time during that period of players being conditioned to continually adjust and review and reflect on what’s happening in the environment.
“We’re perhaps not the same as other sports that are desperate to start immediately, and we recognise that our players need time to do a pre-season.”
Asked if a Glasgow v Edinburgh match at some point (the 1872 Cup series was tied 1-1 before the Guinness Pro14 was indefinitely suspended) McKay, who is effectively No 2 to chief executive Mark Dodson on the SRU executive said: “It is probably too soon to be talking about ‘likely’ anything in the current environment, but what we presented is what we felt is a solution to addressing initial issues around training.
“Then we have to come back and share and keep having that dialogue with the government and other sports around best practice on how you graduate to that next level of contact training and thereafter playing a game, and that game may well be behind closed doors.
“So, it is just a step by step gradual process, and we’ll just keep learning and sharing best practice, both in Scotland and importantly as part of our Threat Management Group.
“We are tapping into the WHO and IOC and other governing bodies, to make sure we are taking the best from others to feed into our own thinking – because other countries are at different points in the trajectory in respect of tackling this enormous challenge s.
“So we want to be sure we have a close handle on the most recent thoughts.”
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