The 16 NRL Telstra Premiership Clubs have today issued a joint statement confirming support for the Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League’s decision not to participate in a 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
The 16 clubs are united that it is in best interests of player health, safety, wellbeing and the international game for the World Cup not to proceed in 2021. The support not to play is based on the high COVID-19 infection rate in the United Kingdom and onerous biosecurity and quarantine protocols that would be placed on all players having just completed a lengthy period away from home during the NRL Telstra Premiership.
The 16 clubs support the World Cup being delayed until 2022 where it is expected there will be less risk to player health and safety and a stronger competition.
Canberra Raiders Chief Executive Don Furner, speaking on behalf of club CEOs, said clubs supported players attending a World Cup but not at the risk of their health and wellbeing.
“We all want to see a strong, safe and successful Rugby League World Cup. It’s clear that cannot be achieved in 2021, but we are in strong support for the tournament to be held in 2022,’’ he said.
“We want the players to come home healthy. There are two massive challenges here, the UK infection rate is increasing, with the two countries being at different stages of vaccination levels and approach to dealing with the virus. Secondly there are several unknowns in terms of the process and protocols for players who may get exposed to Covid-19 locations and how that may disrupt the tournament, and safe passage home for players without significant risk in terms of isolation and quarantine requirements.”
South Sydney Rabbitohs Chief Executive Blake Solly, also speaking on behalf of Club CEOs, said a 2022 World Cup provided a better platform for players and fans.
“We all support our players reaching the pinnacle of representative football, be it All Stars, state or country. We’re proud of our players representing their nation, we continue to meet our obligations to players when they are on representative duty, but we also need to be sure they will remain healthy when they do,’’ he said.
“The NRL and its clubs have gone to great lengths and invested heavily to ensure our players remain healthy and the competition continues. These measures have been taken with an infection rate in Australia that is minimal when compared to the rate in the UK. This rate of infection is far too high for us to be confident the players will not contract COVID-19 during the World Cup in the UK. Every club and player has experienced great disruption and challenge over the last two seasons, with the players and their families away from home or living under strict protocols for most of this period. To spend another lengthy period away from home, under extremely strict protocols in a nation with a high infection rate and followed by quarantine upon their return to Australia is not a fair ask on the clubs or players.”