French clubs Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique will not be able to host matches until September after the national government put a ban on sporting events.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed plans to ease the country’s lockdown measures on May 11th, but confirmed sport, including behind closed doors, wouldn’t continue until September.
It leaves both Super League and the RFL with a major issue to resolve, with both clubs now unable to play at home for the majority of the season.
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer has spoken about competition integrity; ensuring the fixture schedules are fair to all sides once play resumes. However, the announcement from the French government inevitably challenges officials in trying to deliver a season that can provide that.
While the season is likely to run through October once it returns, both clubs would have a huge backlog of home fixtures to fulfil come September, while it remains to be seen how and when French officials will relax their travel restrictions.
The news adds further weight behind calls from Super League to remove relegation, with Catalans now at a distinct disadvantage. Many clubs have called on relegation to be scrapped due to the financial implications during already testing times, while they would also not have to pay a parachute payment.
An RFL spokesperson said: “The RFL and Super League Europe have maintained regular dialogue with Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique throughout the last two months about the public health situation in France as compared to England, and will be holding further conversations to assess the impact of the latest announcement.”