The BBC reported this morning that the British and Irish Lions series with South Africa is now being considered to be played in the UK and Ireland due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing fans from travelling. This comes at odds to a statement the SARU made previously stating that a tour without visiting fans would not be commercially viable for them; this perhaps suggests that there is a negotiation currently taking place regarding revenue share.
With the current deadlines we have in place in the UK and Ireland, it looks like the vaccine will allow for fans to attend games by the summer in time for the tour. We already know a warm up contest against Japan has been confirmed in Edinburgh on the 26th June, so logistically the tour is likely to start in the home nations anyway.
It's difficult to comprehend a Lions tour taking place so close to home. It's hardly a tour if you're playing at home every weekend! You then have to consider flying over test teams from South Africa for midweek games; if club teams didn't already field their weakest sides during these matches, they certainly will with the circumstances currently in place. It will make it very accessible for us here in the UK, but for South African fans who currently have a travel ban in place to come to the UK, it will make it nearly impossible for them to watch any matches.
I just feel that shoe-horning in a test series that bypasses tradition, doesn't economically benefit the host nation (especially following the 'Oceans Apart' documentary) and loses the charm of bruising encounters with mid week underdogs makes the whole event a little lacklustre? I know the revenue generated, and the marketing and hype created from a Lions tour would be huge for World Rugby, but let's face it, if it's not in South Africa, it should be postponed or cancelled. The match schedule both internationally, and at a club level, is congested as heck this year as we play catch up to what we have missed last year, but Lions tour this year was always going to add to that strain... Maybe next year really would be a better time for it?
Image Copyright Credit: @TheTimes 2020