Championship clubs consider late August restart

Championship and League 1 clubs have circulated an ambitious proposal to restart their seasons in August and finish in November.

The plans, which were set out in a document sent to all 25 clubs on Friday, would see teams return to their league campaigns on the final weekend of August.

Both competitions would see sides play each other just once, with the play-offs reduced to top four semi-finals and possible promotion finals taking place on the last weekend of November.

The document has emerged from one of two working groups set up by the clubs to investigate the possibility of playing again in 2020, and it still has to overcome significant hurdles to become reality.

The working groups are also currently analysing the financial cost of playing without crowds, and investigating other possible income streams including broadcasting matches online.

Several clubs are still privately sceptical that a return would be financially viable without crowds present, and they are worried about the cost of testing and possible reductions in central funding next year.

But there are also a number of other clubs keen to do everything possible to complete some sort of season.

They include those that would be Super League promotion contenders, although the decision on whether that would be acceptable in a truncated campaign ultimately lies with the RFL board, which is made clear in the document.

Other major issues include the cost of returning to training before matches resume, which would require players to come off the government furlough scheme, and the participation of Toulouse in the Championship.

The French club, which is full-time, faces quarantine and travel issues, which they are set to discuss with their own players this week.

The Summer Bash has been scrapped in the plans, but there is hope that the 1895 Cup that finishes with a final on Challenge Cup day can still take place.

It would see just eight teams take part – last year’s winners and finalists Sheffield and Widnes, plus the next six highest ranked teams from England.

The proposal does state, however, that the competition would only be “logical” if the final was able to be played in front of a crowd, and it also includes a different final date to the ones set out in Super League fixture drafts.

The five non-Super League clubs still in the Challenge Cup would also return to action a week early in round six on the weekend of August 23.

There are no midweek matches planned for what are primarily part-time competitions, but a weekend has been set aside in early September to catch up on postponed fixtures from earlier in the year.
Further talks on the proposals are set to take place this week.