May 22 and 23 were the most important dates of the European rugby calendar this year – the date when the Champions Cup final should’ve taken place at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, France. It could’ve been a major event with a massive attendance that could’ve put other similar events to shame.
Instead, it was just another weekend during the pandemic, with fans having little more to do than playing Rugby Star at a mobile casino NZ. A statement by the EPCR Board published on March 24 has postponed the 2020 season indefinitely, and with it, the final, too.
Things are slowly changing for the better, though. In many countries, sports are returning as the first wave of the pandemic seems to have passed, offering fans a chance to enjoy their favourite sports once again, and sports leagues to finish what they had to stop doing months ago. But the significantly shorter season puts pressure on everyone – and this sometimes leads to conflicts in the scheduling of the matches, among others.
The Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup were both frozen at their semifinals in the spring. The matches were postponed, not cancelled, with plans to resume and finish the season, even with a delay. The EPCR has its own plans to play out the remaining matches of the season, and World Rugby, too – apparently, in turn, the two governing bodies didn’t compare notes on their reopening plans.
World Rugby and the Rugby Football Union have proposed that, if the July Tests can’t proceed as planned, the extra internationals could take place this October. The problem is this clashes with the EPCR’s plans to stage the Championship Finals on October 16th and 17th. EPCR was apparently not consulted about this matter.
“That directly clashes with us and we are informing World Rugby we fully intend to use our October window if we need it,” EPCR Chairman Simon Halliday told The Guardian a couple of months ago. “That directly clashes with us and we are informing World Rugby we fully intend to use our October window if we need it. We could play our semis and finals on those two weekends or, alternatively, just use one of them for the final and try and find two other dates in August and September for the quarters and semis.”
The rumours about the 2019/2020 season’s early ending are not true, Halliday clarified a while ago. While the situation is fluid, especially because of the uncertainty when it comes to the public health situation, cancelling the season is out of the question. There will be a new playing calendar built with the players’ welfare in mind, and if necessary, major knockout games will be staged without the access of spectators.