No time for sport during coronavirus outbreak - Bidwell

4:53 pm on 18 March 2020

Opinion - This is not the time to be staging professional sport.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck reacts to a bunker decision.

Separating the Warriors from their families is a selfish move by the NRL, according to Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Photosport

It's not the time to be worrying about if the All Blacks will be playing this year or whether the Olympic Games might go ahead.

Nor is it time to wonder if Liverpool will be awarded that elusive Premier League title or to ponder how long the National Rugby League (NRL) can stay solvent without full rounds of football.

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Let's be honest, the fact the NRL hope to keep going behind closed doors and that the A-League plan to do the same and that AFL is due to start on Thursday is just distasteful.

Not that Australian sports administrators are singularly selfish, because British Super League (which includes franchises from Canada and France) remained on until recently.

Let's dwell on the NRL a minute and the New Zealand Warriors who, as one Melbourne radio personality said on Monday, have been "conscripted" by their governing body.

The Warriors' players want to be in New Zealand, not on the Gold Coast, but for the sake of their competition have been denied the right to return home by their parent body.

Losing the Warriors would affect the integrity of the competition, apparently. Integrity? The NRL must be joking.

But the problem the NRL have - and one shared by the likes of Sanzaar and New Zealand Rugby - is they face going broke very quickly should they follow the lead of most other codes and suspend competition in the face of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Television companies reportedly pay the NRL $AU13 million for each round of matches and, with little or no cash reserves, the governing body would not be able to absorb any kind of curtailment to the competition.

Super Rugby is the same, but made more complicated by the fact teams from five nations take part in it.

We might - provided no players show coronavirus symptoms in the meantime - see Super teams in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia playing derby games amongst themselves, but that won't be a lot of comfort to the Sunwolves or Jaguares.

I feel these people's pain. Believe me I do.

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I'm a freelancer who people pay to offer a point of view on sport. It's a gig that has its moments, but overall I very much enjoy it.

But no sport means no work and that seriously inhibits my ability to support my family.

So I get why ARL Commission chairman Peter V'Landys is so keen to keep staging the NRL and can understand why Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos is nervous about the 2020 Super Rugby season ending up on the scrapheap.

But these are unique circumstances. People around the world are dying in increasingly big numbers and there's every reason to assume that similar will happen here.

Spare me these dribblers who say sport is essential to the health and wellbeing of a nation and that we must preserve our professional competitions. What rot.

Those codes who can afford to call a halt to proceedings, have done, and those whose model is already busted are now hanging on for grim death. Or should that be in the face of grim death?

Because how anyone can pretend that we need sport right now or maintain, as V'Landys is trying to, that it's a basic human right, is beyond me.

He has petitioned the Australian government for a handout on the basis that an Australia with no rugby league, isn't really Australia at all.

I wish I was making that up or exaggerating for effect.

People are dying and, tired of forever being told the sky is falling, lots of us have been slow to react. That includes governments and, while every attempt is now being made to contain the coronavirus, it's all come a bit late.

The effects are already bad, but in due course they could be absolutely devastating. And not just overseas, but in New Zealand as well.

So while I get that various athletes have spent years working towards the Tokyo Olympics and while I fear New Zealand Rugby might actually go broke, I don't feel too inclined to feel sorry for them.

Not when this pandemic appears to worsen by the day.

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