Rugby Africa has cancelled all its competitions for 2020 in a bid to protect the health of both players and their loved ones.
The Rugby Africa Cup had been due to get underway on 30 May but a decision to prioritise players’ health above the continental competition for national teams had been taken earlier in the month.
The women’s competition has also been cancelled, as have Sevens and Under-20 tournaments as well.
In a statement, Rugby Africa said that the following considerations led to matches being cancelled:
- Bans on travel, public gatherings and sporting events across Africa
- Not all African nations will lift restrictions at the same time, so compromising the participation of some countries
- Travel costs are set to increase significantly
- Potential quarantine requirements could require some players to spend much longer periods abroad
“The health and safety of our players, fans, staff, partners and local communities remains our top priority,” said Dr Elvis Tano, head of Rugby Africa’s Medical Committee.
Despite the uncertainty over when the pandemic will peak in Africa, the governing body is keen to restart local activities and competitions as soon as health conditions permit.
“Rugby Africa is planning safe, practical protocols at a local level to get back on the playing field and TV screens,” said Rugby Africa President Khaled Babbou.
“The whole community is keen for play to resume. However, the priority remains to help federations deal with this complex situation as best as possible, and ensure health and safety for all.”
Although the official 2020 competition schedule has been cancelled, Rugby Africa reiterated its wish to support cross-border matches or sub-regional tournaments organised by federations where possible in 2020.
“This is certainly one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make but it also seems to be the most reasonable option given the current circumstances,” said Rugby Africa Vice President Andrew Owor.
“However, we still hope to be able to organise some matches this year. Over the next few months, we have a single mission: to do our utmost to help our communities to come back stronger and get local-level competition up and running as soon as possible.
“Given Africa’s size and diversity, a localised approach makes sense.”
In another move, Rugby Africa has approved the release of US$190,000 from a solidarity fund to help struggling federations.
All member federations are eligible for this financial aid – which can range from food packages, meals, protective equipment or emergency food and medical support for clubs and players – to support their rugby communities.
“This financial support supplements a range of initiatives already rolled out to boost our rugby community and highlights the shared values and cooperation dear to our organisation,” said Babbou.
“We must also stand together and continue to do everything we can to support those combating the pandemic.”