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Local rugby, unaffected by the coronavirus

A moment during a match between Club de Rugby Málaga and Hortaleza at the university.
A moment during a match between Club de Rugby Málaga and Hortaleza at the university. / SUR
  • Because the two main clubs in the province have amateur status, they are better protected than most from the crisis

Protected by their amateur status, local rugby clubs are coping better with the coronavirus situation than many other sports clubs in the province. Neither Club de Rugby Málaga or Marbella Rugby Club, both of which are in the second national category (in group C of the Division of Honour B) are facing serious difficulties in these months without matches.

Neither have much at stake in terms of competition; they have both achieved mathematical safety this year and will continue following their dream of getting a local team among the Spanish rugby elite whenever the action resumes. In fact, although there are now five Andalusian representatives in the second division, only Ciencias de Sevilla and Generalife de Granada have ever played in the top flight.

CR Málaga were eighth when the state of alarm was declared, and had just one game left to play. The club's president, Pablo Cabrera, believes there may now be controversy over the Spanish Rugby Federation's solution with regard to promotion and relegation to and from its two top divisions.

"The legal argument could be that if a competition is deemed to be over, the matter of who goes up or down can't be resolved because the seasons haven't been completed. Many teams are waiting on this to know if they can keep hold of players and sponsors," says Cabrero. He thinks the solution would be to allow teams to move up but not down, but this would lead to a change in format in the Division of Honour A and B next season.

Although the competition is organised by the Spanish Federation, the clubs in Division of Honour A and three in B have created an independent association which proposes playing no more matches this season, and using what they save to maintain players.

In any case, Cabrera is sure that they won't be affected much. "Our club isn't based on sponsors, unfortunately. We are self-sufficient in order to be competitive. We have concentrated exclusively on the youth team and people from Malaga. If anyone has come from elsewhere it is because for reasons not associated with the sport; he has come to work in the city."

Club de Rugby Málaga has a budget of around 170,000 euros, thanks to the players being members and paying fees. There are around 300 in total, plus 40 from the veterans team. "We are the only team in Division of Honour B with this philosophy," says Cabrera proudly. His club has teams in every age group, although from the under-12s downwards there are no competitions as such, only matches.

CR Málaga also receives a grant from Malaga council and is sponsored by Cumaca Motor, ICESA and Miel de Caña Nuestra Señora del Carmen. For that reason there is no call for an ERTE, because at the end of the season they may be able to obtain a grant from the Junta de Andalucía and another smaller amount from the Malaga provincial government.

The biggest stumbling block for this club, with numerous young players in a sport which is still relatively unknown in this country, is not the coronavirus but needing its own facilities. "We train and play at the university, but that closes during the holidays. The rugby field in Rincón is one of the best in Spain, but not accessible for us because of the lack of public transport," says Cabrera. He is keen to take over a site at Soliva which the council designated for rugby nearly a decade ago but never finished. "We would do it in five stages and finance it ourselves, with support from the Andalusian Federation. It's needed," he insists.