Three big men lock arms. Three from the other team do the same. At the referee’s signal, they lunge toward each other, their faces inches apart.
Often there is a rule violation of some kind, and they have to get up and do it again. And maybe again.
Doesn’t really sound like social distancing, does it?
The coronavirus has caused dramatic shifts in the scheduling and logistics of many sports. In rugby union, it may cause material changes in the rules of the game itself.
Scrums, when the players’ faces come close to each other, would not be barred outright, but World Rugby is advising that they not be reset repeatedly by the referee. Tacklers will have to come in low, not upright, another situation with the potential for close face-to-face contact.
The group also recommended barring huddles and spitting. It is advising that at halftime the ball be washed, and players don new uniforms.
The World Health Organization says that risks of transmission are greatest when people are close to each other for 15 minutes or more. Rugby players who are most often in scrums are in close contact with the opposition for about 13½ total minutes per game, World Rugby said.
The changes are not mandatory, however, and Super Rugby in New Zealand, which is to resume June 13, has already said it would stick with the traditional rules, repeated face to face scrums and all.
“There don’t appear to be any signs of community transmission in New Zealand, so our circumstances are quite different, and we don’t anticipate the need to adopt the law proposals,” Mark Robinson, the chief executive of New Zealand Rugby, told Radio New Zealand.
A Season is Truncated. Legal Action May Follow.
France made the decision to truncate its soccer season rather than try to resume it. The teams in first place of each division were declared champions, and the teams at the bottom were relegated.
Needless to say, not everyone was happy. The teams relegated from the top division, Amiens and Toulouse, have threatened legal action.
The news was better for the two teams to be relegated from the second division, Le Mans and Orleans. They got a reprieve when the Ligue de Football Professionnel, which runs the top two divisions, said that Ligue 2 would expand to 22 teams from 20 and that they could keep their spots next season.
Not so fast, said the Fédération de Football Française, which runs all soccer in France and pulled rank on Wednesday. In a terse two-paragraph statement, it said, “The relegations planned for the 2019-2020 season are maintained, and Ligue 2 will remain at 20 clubs for the 2020-2021 season.”
In a sign of what may be to come for leagues around the world making decisions in the weeks ahead, teams are upset.
“We are of course disappointed for our club and for all those who support us, but also for football,” the newly re-relegated Le Mans said. “We will now meet with our counsel to consider the response to this unfair and cruel decision.”
Also on Wednesday, in England, where the Premier League is pushing forward with resumption, the decision was made to start allowing contact in training.
The league emphasized safety in its announcement. “The Premier League’s priority is the health and well being of all participants. Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week.”
There is no date yet set for a restart in England. France will start its 2020-21 season on Aug. 21.
Bring Fans Back to Tennis
The first step is bringing sports back. The second is to add live fans into the mix. World Team Tennis thinks it is ready for Step 2.
The league said earlier this week that it would hold a three-week season beginning on July 12 at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. At the time, it was unclear what the policy on fans would be.
Now the league says that 500 fans will be allowed at each session at the 2,500-seat outdoor stadium. “World Team Tennis will follow the direction of local and state government officials in West Virginia while adhering to all health and safety protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control, and take every precaution to ensure the safety of its players, coaches and essential staff in executing the operation of its matches,” the league said.
So far, virtually every major sport that has restarted or planned to do so has made an empty stadium part of the protocol.