The Lions have been mulling over three main options:
- playing in front of no fans in South Africa
- postponing the tour until 2022 or turning the scheduled July and August fixtures into home matches.
- Cancelling the series altogether would be another option.
If Tests were staged on British and Irish soil, Warren Gatland’s side would likely play the Springboks at the Principality Stadium, Twickenham and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. That means Murrayfield would miss out on Lions v South Africa match, but a warm-up match against Japan has already been announced for Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium on June 26 – the weekend before the tour party was due to travel.
However, it’s highly unlikely fans in the UK will be able to attend matches in full capacity – if at all – so that brings with it a higher financial risk for the Lions. If no fans would be allowed in the UK, then it’s likely the tour will stick to its original schedule and travel to South Africa.
Alun Wyn Jones and Owen Farrell have joined forces to tell Lions bosses the summer series must happen in some form, along with Johnny Sexton and Stuart Hogg, while attending a conference call last week. The preference with former players is undoubtedly for the tour to take place in South Africa, even without supporters.
Delaying the tour until 2022 would be fraught with complications, with some nations already securing summer tours and Tests. The fact it would be just a year out from the 2023 Rugby World Cup is also not desirable for the home unions.
It could well cause issues for Gatland, who has been on a sabbatical from his day job in charge of the Chiefs to perform his duties as Lions boss.