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David Humphreys: 'Pandemic will permanently change how clubs operate'

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Published in Rugby
Monday, 29 June 2020 11:16

Outgoing Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys says the Covid-19 pandemic will have a permanent impact on the way in which professional clubs operate.

All European competition has been suspended since March, with teams beginning to return to training with seasons set to resume in the coming months.

The former Ireland fly-half, who is returning home after six years with Gloucester, says the crisis will force clubs into making long-term changes.

"It has caused a lot of clubs to sit back and really assess the business model on which they're built," Humphreys told Sportsound Extra Time.

"No question, almost everything has been reviewed and looked at in real depth.

"Going forward the game will look slightly different. The investment in players will still be there but maybe not at the same level in terms of salaries.

"In terms of support teams, management teams and coaching teams, we'll still have to be good but certainly any excess staff or players that you're carrying will be sacrificed to try and make the sport more sustainable and the individual clubs more sustainable businesses."

'Global calendar can help secure future'

Among the current hot-topics in world rugby is the creation of a global calendar, which would see a uniformed fixture schedule for northern and southern hemisphere sides.

Humphreys believes that finding a consensus around a global calendar will afford rugby union with the best opportunity to thrive amid the changing sports landscape.

"I think that's the single biggest part of the game that if we can get that right now, that will establish the game and make it secure from an economic point of view," he said.

"We've got to have a game that can be played throughout the world which recognises that international rugby is absolutely key to the game.

"It's key to the development, to the financial model but also respecting the fact that clubs are an integral part of that as well.

"Sometimes when there's a huge overlap they become competing interests, for our sport to survive we have to get that bit right.

"Hopefully we're getting to the point where there will be a season structure in place which will allow all aspects of the game, including the domestic game, to flourish."

'There was never any doubt we'd be back'

Humphreys has returned home having left his role as Ulster director of rugby in 2014.

Prior to that he had spent nearly 20 years with the province firstly as a player, helping them lift the European Cup for the first time in 1999, and then as part of the management set-up.

"There was never any doubt that we'd end up back," admits Humphreys.

"Why we kept the house here is because we always fancied coming home, for me probably sooner rather than later.

"I think when you come from a place as beautiful as this, and being a proud Ulsterman, it was always a case of trying to get home as quickly as I could."

Having previously suggested that he might move away from rugby once his time at Gloucester was over, Humphreys admits that he could still return to working within the sport in the future.

"It's an exciting time, I look forward to a new challenge, I don't know what that will be," he said.

"It might be in rugby, it might not be."

Click here to listen to Monday's Sportsound Extra Time on BBC Radio Ulster.

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