RUGBY League is “on its knees” after plans to introduce crowds back to professional sporting fixtures from next month were scrapped.

Warrington Wolves had pencilled in their Super League fixture against neighbours Wigan Warriors on the weekend of October 10 as their first game in front their home fans since March 6.

However, the Government announced on Tuesday that increased rates of Covid-19 transmission mean games must remain behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps more worryingly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new measures introduced this week could last for six months, meaning it could be well into 2021 before The Wire can entertain their fans live again.

Chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick outlined just how great the need was for fans to return as soon as possible and explained just how much work had gone into getting The Halliwell Jones Stadium ready for a socially-distanced crowd.

“We needed fans in weeks ago. The sport is on its knees,” he told the Guardian.

“The work that has gone in to date has been incredible to ensure we can host games in a Covid-secure stadium.

“We’ve been engaging with the local authority and safety advisory groups and we were all geared up.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the RFL, Super League and in particular Warrington Borough Council.

“A lot of work went into laying the foundations with the behind closed doors games and that intensified to get ready for the return of crowds under a restricted capacity.

“We were good to go, as were a number of Super League clubs.

“We had the Wigan game pencilled in as our first game back in front of a crowd and I’m just so disappointed for the supporters as they have been incredible in their support for the club through this.

“We were looking forward to rewarding them and paying them back by playing in front of them again. The fact its had to be put on hold is disappointing but we will come through it.”

Warrington Guardian:

Karl Fitzpatrick, right, with head coach Steve Price. Picture by Mike Boden

The RFL secured a £16million loan from the government earlier this year to help clubs survive the initial impact of the pandemic.

However, with this news plus the winding-up of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of next month, it is clear more help is needed.

While admitting the club is currently “haemorrhaging money,” Fitzpatrick insists they and the sport as a whole will survive.

He also believes the RFL’s work to secure a pilot scheme for fans to attend four Super League matches next week, which has now been scrapped, will mean they are among the first in line when the situation improves.

“Unfortunately, rugby league is commercially fragile,” he said.

“The RFL did a tremendous job in securing a government loan to support the clubs, but it is a loan and it needs to be paid back.

“Like most businesses – not just in sport but in wider society – we are haemorrhaging money with very little coming in.

“The furlough scheme comes to an end soon and that has been a Godsend. It has helped the club to survive.

“We’ve got some real challenges ahead of us. As a complete sector, sport has been absolutely decimated and we need the help.

“There was a bit of positivity in the RFL getting the pilot events through and with that, I think there’s a bit of hope.

“With the situation being so dynamic and fluid, we’re hoping they will give the green light once again sooner rather than later.

“The sport as a whole is in a really perilous position, as are all sports. We need to be playing in front of crowds again.

“We will come back – it’s going to be difficult and it’s another hurdle being put in front of us but it is one we will clear.”