British & Irish Lions likely to reject 'generous' hosting offer from Australia

Figcaption British Irish Lions Likely To Reject Generous Hosting Offer From Australia
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

The British & Irish Lions have confirmed Australia’s surprise offer to stage this summer’s series against South Africa is on the table, but the Guardian understands it is likely to be rejected despite the prospect of bumper crowds in the alternative host nation.

Relocating the tour to Australia is among the contingency options but financial and logistical complications mean the proposal is the least likely compared with switching to the UK and Ireland, or going ahead in South Africa behind closed doors.

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The Rugby Australia chairman, Hamish McLennan, confirmed the offer had been tabled, with the Lions and South Africa sharing the profits once his organisation had been reimbursed costs. The offer has been received as “generous” and there is the obvious carrot that crowds could attend the matches – a prospect that looks highly unlikely in South Africa and uncertain in the home nations.

It is accepted that Australia would still not be able to welcome 30,000 travelling Lions supporters, but McLennan told the Sydney Morning Herald: “What we learnt from the Tri Nations last year and the tennis that’s happening now is that Australia can successfully stage global tournaments in a Covid world. There are so many expats living around Australia that we still feel we could fill the grounds. We’re here to help.”

Australia’s strict border controls are considered a potential stumbling block, however. There is not enough time in the calendar for the Lions to complete their respective seasons, undergo the quarantine period required and fulfil a tour completewith matches against provincial teams. Truncating the tour to accommodate the quarantine period would raise questions about whether going to Australia is worthwhile financially.

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In addition, the greater time difference would not be well received by Sky Sports – not least as it would mean more clashes with high‑profile events such as the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics – and well-placed sources in South Africa have poured cold water on the proposal.

Discussions are ongoing between the Lions and the South Africa union on how best to proceed, with a decision expected by mid to late February. South Africa favour postponement by a year but that is considered highly unlikely because it would be too close to the 2023 World Cup while the home nations have summer tours arranged. It would also require the approval of World Rugby, which would then need to overhaul the international calendar.

South Africa’s next preference is whichever solution is most financially beneficial given the economic gains a full Lions tour can bring.

Playing in the UK and Ireland could provide that on the basis that crowds are allowed into stadiums but that remains a huge if and the logistical planning for moving the tour to the northern hemisphere would need to start sooner rather than later.

As a result, there is an increasing sense that playing the tour in South Africa in empty stadiums is a realistic option. It would be devastating for South Africa, given the revenues they would be missing, but it would be the broadcasters’ preferred option, as well as the most straightforward logistically.

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