Both the Betfred Championship and League 1 will have play-offs and promotion involving the top six teams in each competition this season.
The Betfred Championship, which kicks off over the Easter weekend at the start of next month, will adopt the same top six play-off system which was used in the Betfred Super League in 2020.
That means the top two in the final table will earn a bye through the first round of the play-offs before playing the winners of sudden death fixtures between teams three to six – and the winners of those two semi finals will meet in the Million Pound Game to determine promotion to the Betfred Super League in 2022.
The games will be played over a three-week period from September 25 to October 10, and will be shown live on Sky Sports.
In Betfred League 1, which kicks off in May, the team finishing top of the table will earn automatic promotion. The teams finishing second to sixth will play in a five-team play-off series culminating in a Promotion Play-Off Final.
That will run for four weeks, starting the weekend before the Championship play-offs (September 18-19).
Clubs will be required to have played 70% of their league fixtures (16 out of 22 in the Betfred Championship) to qualify for the play-offs.
The bottom two teams in the Betfred Championship will be relegated – irrespective of how many fixtures they have played.
The clubs had already agreed that league positions will be determined by points percentage – again, as in the Betfred Super League in 2020.
This is to allow for the possibility of teams being forced to withdraw from fixtures because of Covid-19 – they will be allowed to do so if seven or more players are ruled out either after testing positive, or as close contacts of a positive test following test and trace analysis.
The RFL and clubs will attempt to rearrange postponed fixtures where possible, but there are very limited opportunities to do this given the delayed start to the season, and the impracticality of midweek fixtures.
There are specific challenges around the involvement of Toulouse Olympique in the Betfred Championship following the latest changes around quarantine for elite sports teams returning to the UK from France – and an announcement about the impact on Toulouse’s early-season fixtures will be made in the coming days.
The clubs had also already agreed to remove golden point for the 2021 season, to reduce the demands on players who will have gone almost a year without competitive action, and many of whom are part-time.
The schedule for the opening week’s fixtures has now been finalised, with all matches available on the OurLeague App.
Betfred Championship, Round 1 fixtures
Good Friday, April 2: Oldham v Swinton Lions (5.15pm), Featherstone Rovers v Batley Bulldogs (7.30pm).
Easter Saturday, April 3: York City Knights v Toulouse Olympique (tbc), Dewsbury Rams v Whitehaven (7.30pm).
Easter Sunday, April 4: Sheffield Eagles v Bradford Bulls (12.45pm), Halifax Panthers v London Broncos (3pm), Newcastle Thunder v Widnes Vikings (5.15pm).
Betfred League 1, Round 1 fixtures
Saturday May 8: London Skolars v North Wales Crusaders (3.30pm)
Sunday May 9 (all 3pm): Coventry Bears v Barrow Raiders, Hunslet v Workington Town, Keighley Cougars v Doncaster, Rochdale Hornets v West Wales Raiders.