Telegraph Sport believes that the Lions Board has not yet received details of the financial guarantees informally promised by the Australian government, which could prove critical to the final decision. However, relocating the tour to Australia is the least popular option in South Africa, where there is growing acceptance that the Lions tour will not take place.
John Dobson is the trainer of the Stormers, who will face the Lions’ first opponents on South African soil on July 3rd. Dobson is resigned to the fact that the prospects of a tour in South Africa are diminishing.
“I think your news about the crowd was a huge blow to this (South Africa tour) because it seems we won’t be in that position in July,” Dobson told Telegraph Sport. “Rassie Erasmus told us that SA rugby in the UK could do a lot more than we do here and that was before the announcement. We are financially on our knees. We spent a lot of money on Lions during this period to save the union.
“Nobody in South Africa is very interested in the Australian idea. I have 7-8 Springboks in our squad and they would rather not play here in front of anyone than go to Australia in front of curious spectators or British ex-gods. The recently canceled cricket tour of Australia has a lot of bad blood, but the UK option is a lot less resilient, especially with the spectators. “
Dobson says his players would be willing to fly the economy and stay in hostels to play the Lions. However, it seems that the franchises may be missing out on this. “I have some players who hold onto the Lions series but may not get the chance,” Dobson said. “From what Rassie said, it doesn’t sound that feasible. It’s clear that playing midweek games would be difficult so the South African A-Team, effectively our reserves, would be based in the UK and the Would play midweek games. “
The Lions Home Tour stated, How would it work, could the stadiums be full and are there alternative plans?
The British and Irish Lions hosting South Africa could prove to be an acceptable compromise to avoid the athletic and financial costs of a canceled series, here Daniel Schofield investigates the details of this unusual solution.
What was the original backup plan?
Around the turn of the year, with the introduction of their Covid-19 vaccination schedule, Lions began expanding their contingency planning for the trip to South Africa with the host country well behind the UK. With the prospect of the tour taking place behind closed doors in South Africa, the proposal was to run the three Tests at Twickenham, Principality Stadium in Cardiff and Aviva Stadium in Dublin, with Murrayfield already hosting a warm-up game against Japan in June. Relocating the tour from South Africa would incur significant financial penalties, not least from major sponsors such as Castle Lager, but this could be offset by full houses in the British Isles. The warm-up games could also take place in football stadiums.
How has the government’s announcement to lift lockdown restrictions affected this?
It made a hypothetical construct with the tantalizing promise of full venues much more appealing. All four home unions have suffered dire financial losses due to the pandemic. The South Africa Rugby Union is in even worse shape as the Springboks haven’t taken a single test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. They had relied on the gold mine of a Lions tour to get an even keel. A Lions home tour can only work financially if there are large crowds. Otherwise, it will lose too much money from its rejected sponsorship offers. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that normal life would not return until June 21 at the earliest could theoretically allow Lions to play the entire tour to the brim on home soil.
Why did the Lions ask the government to organize the trip home?
Because of the “theoretical” part of the last sentence. We all remember previous government blows, such as that there will be a “significant return to normal” by Christmas. Even with the best will in the world and the success of the vaccination program, the government has only presented a roadmap that could steer a mutated Covid-19 variant in the wrong direction. With so much uncertainty, Lions need a safety net to keep the tour from turning into a financial disaster. The Lions have not requested that the full cost of the tour be paid for bulk capacity. For a trip home to work, the Telegraph Sport needs to know that attendance at stadiums like Twickenham must be at least 25 percent. Although rugby union as a sport already has significant support, the government is considering the Lions’ request. A Lions tour on home soil would not only provide a significant financial incentive, but hopefully also add a feel-good factor to a country in dire need of an elevator.