SRU believes Shute Shield season can go ahead in some form this year and play until November

There isn’t a whole lot to smile about at the moment as the COVID-19 crisis changes life as we know it. But eventually it will end and the good news at this stage is that we could still play rugby in 2020. Rugby News caught up with new Sydney Rugby Union Chairman Phil Parsons to discuss what the year ahead might look like?

Rugby News: You’ve been in the job for a few months now and have overseen a major broadcast negotiation and then the COVID-19 crisis. Quite a baptism of fire? 

Phil Parsons: It’s been an interesting few months but more than anything it’s a privilege to be involved as the chairman of the Sydney Rugby Union and to get the chance to work with our 12 Shute Shield clubs and their presidents through all of this. 

What sort of communication has there been between the clubs and the SRU in recent weeks? 

It’s been constant between all the clubs. Everyone has come together and there have been emails, calls and texts flowing constantly with everyone sharing ideas. All the clubs want to get through this together and they want all the clubs to be there playing rugby when our season kicks off again, whenever that might be. 

Are you still hopeful of playing a Shute Shield season this year? 

We can play rugby through to late November so I’m still confident that if the situation improves in the months ahead, that we’ll be able to play rugby in some form this year. How that looks will probably depend on the timing but there is no reason why we couldn’t play a series of exhibition matches at the very least to get our players on the field. 

It would be great to see our rivalry games played, like Randwick v Easts and Manly v Warringah. We could play exhibition matches, it could be a Pacifica XV playing against a World XV or North v South. We have plenty of options and still quite a bit of time to fit rugby in this year. 

Do you think there is still a chance of playing some form of a traditional Shute Shield season at some stage this year? 

Absolutely and that’s the priority. In the 2000’s we used to play a 10 week Tooheys New Cup tournament each year where each Shute Shield side only played each other once so that’s certainly something we’d like to look at. 

The main thing is that we help our clubs get through this by doing the right thing now so that we can get some rugby played at some point this year. 

How dire is the financial situation looking for some clubs? 

It’s really tough. Most clubs spend the majority of their working capital early in the year on new equipment, playing kits and things like that. Then they earn their revenue once the matches start. We’re not going to be earning that revenue for the next few months and that’s going to make it extremely difficult. 

We also know that a lot of the sponsors of clubs are facing tough times as well and they may not be able to meet their financial commitments this year.

I guess what we can do as rugby people is to try and still support our clubs where we can. Pay your club membership, go out of your way to support your club’s sponsors, if you can make a donation through a club’s foundation, do so and then when the games do return, come out in force and support the club and the game. 

Before all of this, the Sydney Rugby Union did sign a new broadcast deal with Rugby Australia. What can you tell us about that? 

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure the future of the Shute Shield and it’s going to be extremely exciting for all the clubs and their supporters when it kicks in next year. 

If you look overseas, things are starting to improve in China and it does look like this will end at some point so that will be something to look forward to from next season. 

What message do you have for all the club’s, players, coaches, volunteers and supporters of the Shute Shield? 

We’re confident that we can get through this and play rugby this year but it’s going to be extremely difficult for all the clubs so please support them where you can. 

We also need to stay engaged with rugby wherever possible. That might be through articles on Rugby News or other websites or through your club’s social channels. We’re even talking about playing a virtual competition at some stage this year.