British and Irish Lions set for battle to convince clubs and Sky Sports to back extraordinary plans to switch tour location from South Africa to Australia
- The Lions face a battle to convince clubs and Sky Sports to allow location switch
- Rugby Australia have offered to host this summer’s tour, set for South Africa
- However, the country’s quarantine rules pose a problem to the ambitious plans
- Clubs are said to be against extending the tour and Sky would want a rebate
The British and Irish Lions face a battle to persuade the clubs and broadcast partner Sky Sports to support an extraordinary proposal to switch this summer’s tour of South Africa to Australia.
The Lions and the South African Rugby Union received a formal offer from Rugby Australia last week to host the three-match Test series and other tour matches. But the logistical issues created by global travel, quarantine restrictions and the tight fixture schedule have sparked alarm among the game’s other stakeholders.
The Australian government are demanding all new arrivals to the country quarantine for 14 days, a stipulation that is expected to remain in place in July, when the Lions tour is due to begin.
The British and Irish Lions face a battle to move the tour location from South Africa to Australia
Rugby Australia have offered to host the series amid the coronavirus crisis in South Africa
The need to quarantine would leave Lions officials with a difficult decision over whether to seek an extension of the tour, which would be opposed by the clubs, or reduce the number of tour matches and thus trigger a demand for a rebate from Sky.
The weakness of the Lions’ negotiating position is shown by the fact the clubs refused to move the date of the Premiership final from June 26, which clashes with the send-off Test match against Japan at Murrayfield and will deny Warren Gatland many of his first-choice players.
However, quarantine rules pose a problem to clubs and broadcast partner Sky Sports
The Lions management are understood to have been intrigued by the Australian proposal, although they have conceded it may be difficult to deliver.
Other options are to proceed with a behind-closed-doors tour to South Africa or switch it to the United Kingdom in the hope that smaller, socially-distanced crowds will be able to attend matches this summer.
A 12-month postponement has effectively been ruled out by the home unions.
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