The decision to cancel the competitions follows a joint agreement reached with the federations consulted on 7 and 8 May. These bodies want to be able to focus on resuming their activities in the final quarter of 2020, if possible. After assessing the pandemic’s impact on the sports industry, and in particular on rugby, and studying the various options, the following considerations led to matches being cancelled:
- The current bans on travel, public gatherings and sporting events across Africa mean it is unlikely competitions will start up again on the continent this year.
- Not all African nations will lift restrictions at the same time, or in the same way. This would compromise some countries’ participation.
- Travel costs are expected to increase significantly.
- Potential quarantine requirements could require some players to spend much longer periods abroad.
Furthermore, the RA Medical Committee highlights that the variable evolution of COVID-19 in different parts of Africa does not enable a clear picture of when the pandemic will peak in Africa and when the end will be in sight.
Dr Elvis Tano, head of the RA Medical Committee, leads a work group bringing together doctors from several African nations. They have examined and debated the feasibility of a safe return to competition. He comments: “The health and safety of our players, fans, staff, partners and local communities remains our top priority.” There is still too much uncertainty what course the pandemic will take over the next few weeks to feel confident about resuming competition.”
Rugby Africa is working hard to implement local initiatives by the end of the year
There is a consensus among the RA Executive Committee and its member federations to focus efforts on restarting local-level activities and competitions as soon as health conditions permit. The shared desire is to ensure grassroots rugby is relaunched and get national teams ready in an appropriate manner to restart continent-wide competitions in 2021 if possible.
Rugby Africa is also strengthening support for federations and is considering, where financial resources allow, the release of a one-off solidarity fund for rugby team activities and preparations.
Although the official 2020 competition schedule has been cancelled, Rugby Africa reiterates its wish to support cross-border matches or sub-regional tournaments organised by federations where possible in 2020. Rugby Africa’s medical and sports committees will of course review such initiatives first, to ensure that the health situation and government regulations permit rugby events being held.
Rugby Africa Vice President Andrew Owor concludes: “This is certainly one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make but it also seems to be the most reasonable option given the current circumstances. We clearly had plenty of reasons to resume the 2019-20 season, but considering the exceptional situation, we must prioritise our community’s health first and foremost. By doing so, we remain true to our convictions. However, we still hope to be able to organise some matches this year. Over the next few months, we have a single mission: to do our utmost to help our communities to come back stronger and get local-level competition up and running as soon as possible. Given Africa’s size and diversity, a localised approach makes sense.”