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Jersey Was Considered As Base For Rugby Tournament

It has emerged that organisers of a new Pro14 rugby competition wanted to use Jersey as a base for its South African teams this summer.

The South African Rugby Union eventually decided to withdraw its four teams from the tournament because the pandemic stopped them from being able to travel to Europe. 

STAC minutes from 19 April revealed that medics were asked whether it would support the trip if they stayed in bubbles.

If permission had been given, they would not have been allowed to socialise in indoor pubs or restaurants that feel outside of their bubble.

The plan was for the teams to spend ten days in a country not graded as red by the UK to 'clean their travel history' before going to the UK and then onto Jersey.

It's understood Croatia was considered as that country.

Each team would have had a travelling party of between 50 and 55 people.

It was thought that local hotels would benefit to the tune of £550,000.

"By accommodating the South African teams, in addition to the British and Irish Lions (‘the Lions’), the concept of Jersey as a venue of choice for elite sporting teams would be strengthened and a precedent set for the future, enhancing the reputation of the local facilities and hospitality settings.

"There would be significant public health considerations for the Island, as well as reputational challenges and the possibility of negative public sentiment. However, the risks were mitigated by the professional status of the teams, which were already operating under very strict conditions and were cognisant of the devastating effect that a single active case within their camp could have on the PRO14 competition."

Dr. Patrick Armstrong said while he understood the benefits, he wanted to discuss the potential risks – such as an outbreak of the South African variant of Covid-19.

Concerns were raised by other members of the committee around possible interactions between the players and hotel staff, keeping them away from islanders who wanted to meet them, and what would happen if a player tested positive a few days before playing a match.

"The Chair accordingly indicated that the Cell was supportive in principle of the PRO14 teams coming to Jersey, however was mindful of the concerns that had been expressed by the Interim Director of Statistics and Analytics and required further details around the protocols for moving the players around the Island, interactions whilst in Jersey and what would occur in the event of a player requiring treatment in Hospital.

"It was not possible to give guarantees to the PRO14 that any arrangements that they might make would be secure, because there was always the possibility that things might change in the event of an unexpected outbreak and there would be the potential for an ad hoc intense testing regime to be designed in conjunction with the organisers to enhance safety.

"It was agreed that further details of the proposals would be presented to the Cell at a future meeting, once discussions had taken place with officers from the Public Health team."

A few days later, it was confirmed that the four South African sides would play their own competition on home soil instead – and so the planned trip to Jersey was off.

The British and Irish Lions came to Jersey for a pre-tour training camp last month.

They hosted two open training sessions for Jersey fans to watch and visited schoolchildren during their near two-week stay.

Premiership sides Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks are coming to Jersey later this summer to play pre-season friendlies against Jersey Reds.

Other planned sporting trips to the island have either been cancelled or postponed because of ongoing Covid-related restrictions.

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