Guinness PRO14 chiefs have decided to suspend the 2019/20 season indefinitely, the cross-border league going as far as to cancel its grand final, which was set to take place in Cardiff on June 20.
The five-nation competition, in which Ireland’s four provinces compete alongside clubs and regions from Italy, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales, had initially responded to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak by suspending play until April 10, which meant the cancellation of two rounds of games.
The worsening situation across Europe, however, and further sporting cancellations affecting events stretching into May and beyond saw the board of the competition’s operating company, Celtic Rugby DAC, on which the Irish Rugby Football Union has representation, meet by teleconference this week.
That meeting saw the board agree on a strict list of criteria that would enable a return to action. They also produced a further decision to cancel the PRO14 final at Cardiff City Stadium. The PRO14 has promised to refund all those who had already purchased tickets and will make information on that process available on their website on Friday.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, PRO14 Rugby pledged to review proposals regarding how to restart the 2019/20 season “in the near future”.
“PRO14 Rugby is working with key stakeholders to carefully examine several proposals that can be implemented and delivered in order to close out the season – albeit at a later date.”
It also announced that any final played as part of the 2019/20 season “will be hosted by the team with highest-ranking based upon league records from this campaign”.
As that stands, that would mean Leinster, 20 points clear in Conference A on 61 points after 13 games and 14 clear of Conference B leaders Edinburgh, hosting the final but the statement made clear that no decision on a definitive re-commencement date can be made until its four key criteria can be met in each of its five competing territories.
As it stands, with no PRO14 games having been played since March 1, there are still eight matches remaining in the regular season for most teams, including Connacht, Leinster, and Munster, while Ulster are one of four clubs with nine games to play. The indications are, however, that PRO14 Rugby is considering a different way of concluding the season other than requiring its 14 clubs to complete its full schedule.