Barnstaple chairman fears rugby 'changed forever'

Barnstaple in action at Exmouth

Barnstaple in action away at Exmouth - Credit: Terry Ife

Barnstaple chairman Ian Stanton fears rugby will have changed forever when it finally emerges from lockdown.

Barum, like every other National League club in England, has not put a side out for almost a year now - since March 7, 2020 when they were beaten 43-14 at Maidenhead.

When tables were worked out after the season was suspended in April, Barnstaple had done enough prior to that mauling at Braywick Park to earn promotion to National Two South.

But National Two South outfits are part of the National Clubs Association, which has already scrapped a proposed 48-club cup tournament scheduled to be played when lockdown is lifted.

Stanton said there is no truth in rumours circulating that a revised cup competition running into June is at the planning stage.

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And he is worried just how damaged the game will be at all levels – not just National League level – when play finally resumes.

“Rugby will never be the same again,” said Stanton.

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“You have to ask whether the appetite for the game will still be there among players who have not played for a year or more and have found other things to do.

“Also there are the cost implications of all the Covid testing likely to be required for players. At our level that could be tens of thousands of pounds.

“And I can see some clubs – senior and junior – not being able to carry on.

“Will there be a drought of players? Will there be a shortage of sponsors? Almost certainly. And that will create casualties.”

Stanton said the viability of clubs large and small will be affected if, as he fears, players drift away from the game.

“How many clubs will be able to get second and third teams out in future?” said Stanton.

“Social rugby is the backbone of the game and one many clubs rely on financially.”

Although there won’t be competitive rugby in National One or Two until September at the earliest, clubs may be able to arrange friendlies or mini-tournaments in clusters.

Stanton said if players are interested in a local tournament the club would aim to enter.

“The question will be whether or not players have any enthusiasm as they have not played for ages and are not allowed to train at all,” said Stanton.

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