Rugby

Top League cancels remainder of season

Kyodo

The Japan Rugby Top League said Monday it has canceled the remainder of the 2019-20 season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league, which has been on hiatus since mid-February, said it scrapped plans to resume in April to protect players and fans, as well as the companies which own each of the 16 teams in the competition.

As a result of canceling its remaining 42 matches, there will be no official league standings this year, Top League said in a statement. It will consider a different method for selecting the four teams to contest the playoffs for the All-Japan Rugby Championship trophy.

The league said three factors influenced its decision to abandon the competition after six match rounds. While “ensuring the health and safety of visitors, players and stakeholders” was its foremost concern, international travel restrictions were another, it said.

“The global expansion of the coronavirus has prompted many governments, including New Zealand and Australia, to repatriate their nationals from abroad, resulting in many of our players returning to their home countries,” the league said.

The league listed the operations of parent companies as the third reason for the cancellation.

“As all clubs in Top League are corporate, the impact on companies could be very serious if athletes and staff were to become infected,” the league said.

All tickets purchased for canceled games will be refunded, it said.

After initially halting the competition in response to the coronavirus, Top League in early March announced the suspension of games for the rest of the month following the arrest of a Hino Red Dolphins player for alleged illegal drug use.

The league had said it would use the break to conduct “thorough compliance education” with clubs after Hino’s New Zealand-born forward Joel Everson was arrested on March 4 for cocaine use.

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