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Northampton chief Mark Darbon: 'Clubs want appropriate conclusion to season'

Northampton chief Mark Darbon: 'Clubs want appropriate conclusion to season'
© Reuters
Top English clubs have Premiership seasons on hold until at least April 24.

Northampton chief executive Mark Darbon believes there is a collective desire for the disrupted Gallagher Premiership season to reach "an appropriate conclusion."

Premiership fixtures have been shelved for five weeks after the Government changed its stance on mass gatherings as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Four rounds of matches are currently affected, which in Northampton's case covers games against Wasps, London Irish, Bath and Harlequins.

Premiership Rugby's hope is for a resumption of the league programme on April 24.

Darbon, meanwhile, has confirmed no positive tests for coronavirus at the Saints.

He did, though, reveal that one player, who he did not name, and one member of Saints' rugby staff are currently self-isolating, plus three other people across the club's non-rugby performance areas.

"We would love to find a way to bring this season to an appropriate conclusion, and I think that is replicated at the league and certainly other clubs we have spoken to," Darbon said.

"Our strong preference is to get things finished this year and move on to the next one (season) without damaging that one too."

Asked about any impact on clubs' finances, he said: "It's one of the things that is right at the top of our minds.

"There is a shared ambition to get our competition completed, so the number of games we might play or lose will have an impact.

"We probably make between £300,000 to £400,000 out of each game, and have four home games left, so a significant hit is a real challenge.

"We are in a decent position and have a strong balance sheet and own our stadium, so we are confident that we can get through this.

"We are all working on the basis to try and get through this season, and hosting our games is a much better outcome all-round.

"I think we have made the right decision so far. Clubs are supportive of the postponement.

"I think we have a good dialogue. I would be lying if I said I didn't think there were a lot of questions. We certainly have some big questions ahead.

"At club level, if there is an ability to return to play, we have to manage it carefully as we can't stand players down and expect them to play full-bore, so we have to be pro-active in our planning to look after our players."

Birstol Bears v Bath Rugby – Gallagher Premiership – Ashton Gate
The Gallagher Premiership final is scheduled for Twickenham on June 20 (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

Northampton stood down their playing group on Tuesday, with squad members all given individual training plans to work on while away from the club.

Darbon added: "They have been unloading kit from the gym to take with them.

"Our facility will be closed for the next three weeks. There is a necessity to keep players ticking over, and that is what we will do. During that period we are preventing players from travelling overseas."

The Premiership final at Twickenham is currently scheduled for June 20, although were a delayed season to run into July and August, it could potentially raise player contract issues.

The majority of players whose club contracts expire this year will see those deals end on June 30, with terms at any new clubs normally starting from July 1.

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