Return to Play Updates - June 2020

June 17 2020

Canada Rugby League

Rugby League Eyes Opportunities in Western Canada as Rugby Union Tied Up in Committee at National Level

The website released an article "Canada’s suspended season could end sooner in west" in which they've identified opportunities in BC and Alberta for Rugby League to grow at Rugby Union's expense.

The article states:
"In particular, it is possible that games could be played in the autumn in the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta as their respective provincial governments are easing restrictions put in place to fight off COVID-19 faster than their counterparts in the east.

“Given the current situation in Canada, BC is moving along with reopening at a faster pace than other provinces,” Canada Rugby League Association (CRLA) President Bob Jowett told Rugby League Planet.

“And as health issues are provincial responsibilities, meaning that guidance varies from province to province, the CRLA has taken the stance that it is for provincial governing bodies to decide when play can restart, provided that the body produces a return-to-play guide that is acceptable to the CRLA and that all provincial guidelines/restrictions are followed (and municipal limits if appropriate).”

The perceived opportunity comes from their interpretation of Rugby Canada's Return to Play message which has been muddled.

One of the few positives to come out of the pandemic situation for rugby league is that Rugby Canada decided months ago that there wouldn’t be games in the 15-man code until January 2021, leaving the door ajar for league to be the only rugby code to be played in the late autumn in the west.

“We didn’t want to follow that path and crush everybody’s hopes,” said CRLA Vice-President and Canada West team director Josh Knight. “As the different provinces are working out COVID-19 restrictions, and they’re changing every day, it’s up to the provinces to work on their own protocols.”

We're not sure this interpretation is entirely correct, the University Sport organization, USPORT, had issued a statement saying all team sports would be suspended until 2021 and the UVic Vikes included their rugby team in that restriction, even though it's not under USPORT governance but we haven't heard Rugby Canada say "there wouldn’t be games in the 15-man code until January 2021".

It's understandable people may get mixed messages as Rugby Canada have huddled in committee since COVID-19, occasionally giving committee updates but not firmly addressing the Return to Play plan in a clear manner.

Rugby Canada are supposed to release their Return to Play plan later this week and that will likely give the Provinces the decision-making in Return to Play protocol, something that other sports have done weeks ago.

In BC it will be up to the BCRU, following the viaSport guidelines, to determine the roll out of rugby for the rest of 2020. If they're smart they'll push some of that decision making down to the regions and clubs as other sports have done but that can't be taken for granted at this time.

Bottom line is there may be an opportunity for Rugby League to make inroads in BC depending how the BCRU handles the Return to Play process and how clearly they communicate that process. First it has to get out of the Rugby Canada committee and past the Rugby Canada board.

We should know more by the end of the week.

Pemberton Holmes
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