Monday, 3 August 2020

Trying times for transatlantic sports

Super League, the top division of rugby league in the northern hemisphere, kicked off again yesterday, albeit without fans in the stands and one fewer team than when play was suspended back in March at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Toronto Wolfpack having withdrawn from the competition because of financial and logistical problems, and their results before the break expunged from the records.

The NFL and MLB have also cancelled events in London to showcase their sports, and ones that involve flying between or across continents, including the Olympics, European football's Champions League and Euro 2020 and rugby union's Six Nations, have all been postponed (although the West Indies cricket team were able to travel from the Caribbean to play a biosecure Test series against England at Southampton and Old Trafford last month, and Pakistan are about to contest another beginning this week).

Super League will now complete a shortened season without relegation at the end of it, or the Magic Weekend where an entire round of matches is played at a ground in a city outside the game's heartlands like Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool or latterly Newcastle, although the Catalan Dragons from southwest France have re-entered the competition after being forced to cancel fixtures because of travel restrictions before the suspension of play in March.

I suppose that with most rugby league grounds still having standing terraces, getting at least a few socially distanced fans back into them before the end of the season might be a bit easier than with the all-seated stadia of top-flight football, but there must surely now be some doubt as to the Rugby League World Cup due to be played in England next autumn.

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