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“This Is Not Even About Rugby, Everyone Could Be Taking Pay Cuts” – Ian Keatley

Ian Keatley

Two weeks can seem like a lifetime in the midst of global health pandemic. 

A fortnight ago, we spoke to former Munster man Ian Keatley to get an understanding of what the situation was like on the ground in northern Italy. Keatley, of course, is currently with Italian side Benetton, a club which is based in the city of Treviso in the Veneto region, which behind Lombardy, is one of the worst-hit areas of the country for Coronavirus (Covid-19).

During that chat, Keatley spoke about how there was an initial scare when the virus first became prevalent but that everything had since gone back to normal.

However, in the subsequent two-week period, confirmed cases and deaths associated with the disease have continued the rise, forcing the Italian government in implementing a country-wide lockdown.

Keatley is currently in Dublin with his wife, Lisa, and two-year-old daughter, Beth. Thankfully, the 32-year-old and his family were able to get out of Italy before the country was put on lockdown and he admits to Pundit Arena how significantly the situation has changed in the last two weeks.

“Yeah, it has [changed]. I’ve even stopped looking up social media, the only social media I’m looking up is the HSE and even still, they’re saying, ‘Listen, don’t panic but if everyone does their part, that’s the main thing’. We can still have a lot of people going out, frantically shopping, cluster shopping which actually causes more problems and that’s happened with Italy as well.

Ian Keatley

“The thing with Italy now at the moment is that you’re actually not allowed to leave your house unless you’re going to the shop and if you’re going to the shop, only one person is allowed in the car at a time. Also, you’re allowed walk your dog but only one person is allowed walk the dog. So they’re really trying to nullify social gatherings or even gathering of two or three people.”

The stringent measures currently implemented in Italy are a lesson which Irish people can learn from, especially in Ireland’s current situation where some people are not abiding by the social distancing recommendations implemented by the government.

Keatley will be spending precious time with his family over the next few weeks while doing what the Irish government are asking him to do.

Ian Keatley

“Yeah, just spend time with the family and try to play my part, do what the government is asking us to do, trying to limit the interaction between people. Obviously, if I want to see my family, I’ll go up and see them but I might try to meet them in, not public places but meet them in their homes. Just trying to do my part.

“We talked about going to the cinema there the day before yesterday [Wednesday] and we actually can’t even do that now. It’s a small hit for a bigger sacrifice and I think if everyone plays their part, I think we’ll get over this a lot quicker than that.”

From a rugby point of view, there is next to nothing happening. The PRO14 season has been suspended and Benetton have cancelled training. The club will review that decision next weekend but the Dubliner expects he will remain in Ireland for some time.

Ian Keatley

“So since then, it’s all kind of changed. A lot of the players discussed with the Benetton coaches, CEO and we decided that there’s no point going back training because we’re trying to send out a message to all the people to stay at home, don’t leave their house and it would have been a bit of a contradiction if we’re out going to training.

“We discussed it and it has been decided that all the players are going to stay at home so I didn’t actually have to end up going back to Italy so I can stay with my family which is great. That’s going to be reassessed next Sunday 22nd but by the way things are going, I’d say it could be another week or two until I get back over.”

Of course, in a situation where the lives of family and loved ones are at risk, sport takes a back seat. However, there will no doubt be serious consequences to the livelihoods of clubs, staff and players across all sports due to the unprecedented circumstances which we all currently find ourselves in.

Ian Keatley
Ian Keatley

If clubs are impacted from a revenue perspective, will this have a subsequent effect on the players? This is something which Keatley and his teammates in Benetton have been discussing.

“Yeah, there’s two sides, obviously rugby has to take a back seat but then, the financial implications of that. There are always two or three sides to every story. Even there could be pay cuts, this is not even about rugby, everyone could be taking pay cuts, people could lose jobs.”

Keatley added:

“Just amongst players, we were talking about it, we were wondering if there were pay cuts or anything like that. Or if there are pay cuts, will they try to reimburse us towards the end of the season when hopefully the games get going again. So we’re kind of talking on those lines, trying to be proactive and don’t be shocked when it does happen.

Ian Keatley

“But also then, if there are pay cuts in our half, there has to be give and take the other way because as I said, people have to pay mortgages, bills, schools and stuff. It’s always give and take and I think people just have to work together at this time to try and make everything work.”

For Keatley, the next few weeks will involve some training on his own, no gym-work, just going for a few runs and doing body exercises to keep himself fit both physically and mentally. Most of all, he’s looking forward to spending time with his family, just like his teammates are doing back in Italy.

“I think they’ve [teammates] been two days now in complete isolation. I think it’s alright at the moment but I think if it went on for two or three weeks, it will actually take its toll but at the moment I think most of them are playing Fortnite or just playing with their kids. They’re actually being quite creative now which could be a little good thing as you have to think outside the box in how you entertain your kids or how to entertain yourselves. Hopefully, board games, playing cards, even chatting amongst your family will come back into the fray – like in the good old days!

Ian Keatley
Ian Keatley

“I think it shows the positives of everyone coming together and doing their part. As I said, try to enjoy it, try to cook new meals, be creative, try to entertain yourselves in a different way by playing card or board games. I think it could be a good thing when we come through it at the other end.

“Obviously now it’s a bit scary but I think we’ll look back on it and go, ‘Jesus, we did pretty good there’ if we all stick together.”

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email seanmc@punditarena.com or on Twitter