THE Rugby Football League’s CEO Ralph Rimmer has given an update on a range of matters in light of the impact on the game of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the matters arising were the prospect of players taking pay-cuts, the Wembley date and the Ashes.

There was also talk of the game going behind closed doors – but given the news from the NRL that probably makes that more unlikely.

Rugby league was suspended at all levels last week for a fortnight – but Rimmer explained that this was simply a marker to get some planning done and meetings have taken place at all levels of the game – and with Government.

Rimmer said: “It put a deadline on us to produce some high-quality planning, and allowed us to distribute material to our stakeholders to see how feel about it.

“Hopefully when we get to that date we will have mapped out a reasonable way forward.

“That’s why the date was put in the diary. I don’t think anybody realistically thought the competition was going to restart at that point.”

One of the first things that came up during this morning’s press call with NRL chiefs – where the comp is now also suspended after playing a week behind closed doors – was the issue of pay cuts, with bosses Down Under talking about the need for “financial re-setting” across the board..

There have been talks on that matter in the UK, with Rimmer stating: “We’ve talked about it. I don’t think there’s any virtue to a game-wide approach to that. The governing body would certainly not want to get involved with any of those negotiations.

“If (clubs and players) want to sit down independently, assess the situation and enter into a voluntary arrangement then nothing is stopping them from doing that.

“We all understand this is completely uncharted waters for us all and I think it would be realistic to think that pragmatic approaches would be taken by all parties involved.”

The Rugby League Players Association chairman Garreth Carvell has been involved in discussions.

“If we’re going to find a way through this as a rugby league family then everybody at the table has to give something,” Rimmer said.

“That’s the only way we can make some sense of a solution. I’ve tried to impress that on everybody I’ve sat down with and so far it has been relatively well received.”

There are a number of key dates on the rugby league calendar that could be under threat – depending on how long the pandemic lasts and the subsequent suspension.

Magic, the Challenge Cup, the Grand Final and the Ashes.

The Wembley date was brought forward to July 18 this year – but even if the suspension is lifted by then there may be the question of playing the rounds in time.

When asked about moving the date, Rimmer replied: “Everything is feasible.

“We have worked out several scenarios and distributed them to our stakeholders to consider.

“We don’t know what the length of lockdown is so clearly that’s a complication.

“Where that becomes more complicated is we have different competitions to find a completion to, and the considerations in all of this are to take each competition to a climax with integrity involved, player welfare issues, and of course trying to keep everybody solvent.

“Those are the considerations. We’ve also got major event venues booked on dates that are booked, which are difficult to move.

“We are dealing with clubs from other countries, which again makes the situation slightly more complicated – and we have other associated complications.

“I’m speaking with (NRL CEO) Todd Greenberg in Australia on a regular basis to see where they are, and clearly the condition of their competition has an impact on us as well.

“There are many parts to this equation and I think the only way this becomes solvable is by taking the approach that I’ve just described, by sitting down and understanding we are in a place that we never, ever expected to be in and hopefully never will be again.”

In terms of delaying the final, Rimmer explained: “We’ve made some assumptions in the documents we’ve submitted and we’ve distributed these documents to key groups – Government included, of course.

“That length of lockdown is absolutely key to how we present the end of the season.

“We have a massively resilient sport that has demonstrated its resilience over the past 125 years and no doubt, one way or another, we’re going to re-emerge from all of this and celebrate the fact that it’s our 125th year with some fantastic rugby league going on around us.

“I don’t know exactly what solution will fit in the end, we’ve done lots of scenario planning in order that we find a good solution in the end but I couldn’t categorically tell you what it is.

“The availability of venues, whether or not we can fit competitions in to hit those times of events that currently stand in the calendar, is unknown at this moment in time.

“We have made certain assumptions in the document and we will see how they pan out.”

The prospect of playing games behind closed doors seems even more distant following this morning’s news from Australia – but Rimmer (speaking on Friday) had not ruled it out.

“It would be naive of us to knock anything off the table at this moment in time. That may well be a solution,” he said.

“We’ve spoken regularly to Sky and BBC, so they would be involved in any decision such as that.

“But if we did go forward in a way such as that then clearly the clubs involved would (lose gate receipts) which are an important part of their business model.

“Hence the request to our partners for support. If we were to come up with a solution such as that, there would need to be some support to ensure that we nursed the sport through that period, where they would be recompensed to such a degree that they could go forward.”

So far, in the midst of the crisis, the sport’s competition media partners have been supportive – something that is vital given rugby league dependence on the TV money.

Rimmer said: “Sky have been really supportive, all our partners have been, and they have their own pressures of course – I’m not blind to those pressures.

“They have been very collegiate in helping us find an approach.

“At this moment in time I’ve heard nothing from either of the broadcasters that would demonstrate anything but support.”

With the first Ashes series set to take place in the autumn, this could limit Super League’s wriggle room to extend the season.

Rimmer, however, is looking for give and take across the board – citing the overall benefits to the game for the international showpiece.

“Everybody has to sit down at the table and give something in order to make it work.

“The RFL, Super League, Championship and League 1 are all in that equation.

“The Ashes series is a key part of our jigsaw, there is no two ways about it. It is important, financially, to the RFL.

“More importantly, the Ashes series is there to act as an appetiser for the World Cup the year after.

“The landscape we are currently in clearly impacts on the next couple of years, before we get to a good place.

“We want to play the Ashes, of course we do. Super League want to play their games, of course they do.

“The Rugby League World Cup want the appetiser that serves the World Cup in 2021. All that is currently in play. I can’t categorically tell you anything at this moment in time.

“All I can tell you is there is lots of scenario planning, and let’s see what we can get out of that.”