English Rugby League, Super League suspend season until April 3

LONDON (Reuters) - The English Rugby Football League and the Super League have suspended all fixtures until April 3 due to the spread of coronavirus, they announced in a joint statement on Monday.

Matches were played at the weekend but the latest British government advice warning against mass gatherings was followed by the postponement, which applies to all levels of the sport including the men’s, women’s and community game.

“These are unprecedented times, and they present significant financial and commercial implications for Rugby League, which will be further considered during the period of suspension,” said Robert Elstone, the executive chairman of Super League Europe, and Ralph Rimmer, CEO of Rugby Football League.

“Super League is also an international competition, and consideration has to be given to our clubs in Canada and France, particularly around travel restrictions and scheduling fixtures.”

The Super League, which has 10 English teams and one each from France (Catalans Dragons) and Canada (Toronto Wolfpack), had initially elected to carry on even though most elite sports events in Britain were suspended.

However, with the government on Monday advising against mass gatherings that required the presence of emergency workers, the leagues were forced to act.

The suspension applies to all other English competitions such as the Championship, League 1 and Women’s Super League.

Earlier on Monday, Toronto Wolfpack, who signed New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams last year, stood down their entire playing staff in the United Kingdom after four players showed “mild possible symptoms” of COVID-19.

Writing by Ken Ferris and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Heavens