Hull FC and Salford have stood down from their Super League fixtures this weekend due to a series of positive Covid-19 tests at Hull, with the competition’s schedule completely reworked to enable four matches to still take place and the season to continue.Five Hull players who featured in their 54-18 loss to Salford on Sunday – as well as another first-team player and two coaches – tested positive for the virus after the game, and their squad has now entered self-isolation as a result. The Red Devils have also placed their playing and coaching staff into quarantine until a further round of testing this weekend, after track and trace analysis of the match between the sides showed 11 of their players must also now isolate.
No Salford player has yet tested positive, but the competition has acted swiftly to ensure a round of fixtures takes places without the two sides this weekend. Hull’s meeting with Castleford and Salford’s game with Catalans are both off, but there will be two games on Saturday – Wakefield versus Catalans and Huddersfield against Warrington – before St Helens play Castleford and Wigan face Leeds on Sunday afternoon.“Throughout this crisis our priority has been to ensure we minimise any risk, and the postponement of this weekend’s scheduled fixtures involving Hull FC and Salford underlines that approach,” Robert Elstone, the Super League chief executive, said. “It left us with another challenging situation, but it is a credit to the solidarity of the Super League clubs who agreed to adjust the fixture list at such short notice.”The clubs held an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the issue, with the timing of testing now likely to come under scrutiny. At present, players are tested early in the week, with the results made public on Fridays. But with one Hull player contracting the virus away from training before bringing it into the club, there is now likely to be a shift, with calls growing for an extra round closer to the weekend fixtures.Costing may well be an obstacle, but one chief executive told the Guardian that this is “exactly what the sport’s emergency £16m loan from the Government should be used for”. Moving the testing to the end of the week is also being discussed, with the sport’s administrators acutely aware that more issues like this could not only lead to the season being cancelled, but also have grave financial ramifications should the game not fulfil its obligations with the host broadcaster Sky Sports.