Sean Fitzpatrick: Rugby clubs will collapse without crowds
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By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 09/10/20 6:23pm
Former All Blacks captain and Rugby World Cup winner Sean Fitzpatrick tells Sky Sports that rugby clubs will collapse if crowds do not return soon....
Fitzpatrick, who picked up 92 caps for New Zealand between 1986 and 1997, gave a stark reminder as to the situation the sport currently finds itself in.
Speaking as a guest on the latest edition of the Will Greenwood Podcast, Fitzpatrick focused on what could happen next.
"Obviously, if this Covid pandemic continues the way it is at the moment up here, having no crowds at our stadiums, it's going to push a few clubs to the wall," Fitzpatrick told Sky Sports.
"Ultimately that will end in clubs having to release players, which is then going to send a lot of New Zealand and Australian players back home looking for jobs in the southern hemisphere, which could obviously lift the quality, and dare I say, I hope that doesn't happen.
"But I think it's a reality that if we don't start getting crowds back in the stadiums up here, clubs are going to collapse, which is then going to have a knock-on effect of the players being unemployed and looking for jobs elsewhere. And there's only so many positions."
As an individual recently appointed to the board of Welsh PRO14 side Scarlets, and having been a board member at Gallagher Premiership outfit Harlequins since 2008, Fitzpatrick is well-placed to comment on the kind of jeopardy professional clubs are in.
"It is a major concern," he adds.
"How do you pay the salaries every week? And, you know, you've got to have balance sheets going out to May next year.
"It's not easy. People just can't continue to survive with with no income, basically.
We are delighted to welcome All Blacks great Sean Fitzpatrick to the Scarlets— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) July 23, 2020
9⃣2⃣ All Blacks caps
5⃣1⃣ Tests as captain
🏆 Rugby World Cup winner
🌏 One of the all-time rugby greats
Croeso cynnes iawn i ti Sean i deulu’r Scarlets
Story➡️ https://t.co/Meqw7tXM3R pic.twitter.com/ujnSJwGDVq
"And in rugby union, where we generate income is through ticket sales. And then the F&B [food and beverage sales] that comes with that. But this can't continue.
"No matter how much money you've got, there'll come a time where we're going to say enough's enough.
"And I know we look at the situation of the RFU, the position they're in. It's a real concern going forward that I know every club is working as hard as it can to make sure that we can all survive."
Elsewhere, in a wide-ranging interview, Fitzpatrick looked ahead to the return of southern hemisphere Test rugby this week, as Australia face New Zealand, live on Sky Sports.
The former All Black gave his thoughts on the difference new Australia head coach Dave Rennie could make to the Wallabies.
"Everyone speaks really highly for why he [Rennie] works on the culture of the team and works about bringing people together - I think that's what Australian rugby needs," Fitzpatrick says.
"We need to be able to make sure we're not divided. And I think that's the big thing. If we work together as a unit to try and make the Wallabies perform, that's the most important thing.
"From from my understanding of how he operates, he's very big on culture about joining together, understanding each other, working for a common cause, a common dream, a common sort of thread between us. And and from what I hear, that's what he's been working quite hard on with the team.
"He hasn't obviously had a lot of time to get his feet in the saddle and working. But, you know, this is probably the way he would have wanted it, because he gets the guys in a bubble for the next two to three months.
"There's no real distractions because of Covid, you're not allowed to leave the hotel, you have to stay in the hotel. So everything is together as a group."