Championship and League 1 clubs accept null and void reality

A number of Championship and League 1 clubs have accepted that the season is likely to be declared null and void as Covid-19 looks set to put the two competitions into a season-long hibernation.

A combination of logistics and finances have left many clubs conceding that the competitions cannot realistically take place and will be declared finished without any further action taking place.

Although there have been no formal discussions with the RFL about the prospect of voiding the competitions, there is a feeling among many that the prospect of that happening is a genuine possibility that will be brought up in a meeting of the clubs this week.

With the majority of the competition part-time, a pressing concern is how the clubs outside Super League can safely and efficiently test their players. While full-time clubs could self-isolate together, that isn’t a reality for part-time clubs, whose players have jobs away from rugby.

Financial reasons also play into the clubs’ thinking, with many in a position where they will be much better off without another game being played.

Gate receipts are the primary, and for some the sole income for many clubs.

Playing behind closed doors, which looks inevitable for clubs if they wish to start playing in the next few months, would probably be a financial disaster. They would have to take their players and staff off furlough and pay appearance and win bonuses without having the gate revenue to fund them.

The prospect of streaming isn’t seen as realistic as it would be too difficult to commercialise it, particularly for the smaller clubs.

As it stands, all clubs have furloughed the vast majority of their staff but are still receiving their share of central distribution money from Sky. If Super League were to return in an attempt to fulfil its broadcast agreement, which the Super League clubs are desperate to do, that money would still be coming to the Championship and League 1 clubs.

It would mean that some clubs could actually operate with manageable, in some cases minimal, losses with their costs substantially reduced.

However, that would all change if they had to play behind closed doors for months. Though clubs could apply for a part of the £16 million loan received from the government, for the most part they do not want debt hanging over their businesses.

Inevitably, the opinion to void the competitions is not unanimous. Some clubs chasing promotion in particular are desperate to start playing again, though it remains to be seen how, or if, promotion and relegation will be implemented, with Super League chief executive Robert Elstone suggesting that he does not believe promotion to be feasible this year.

There is also an element of uncertainty over the period of furlough, which could leave clubs with more financial responsibility, though it may be neutralised by salary reductions.

Additionally, there is a sense of responsibility to season ticket holders and clubs are aware that they could have to pay out refunds on income they have already accounted for. Clubs are fearful of the implications should fans ask for refunds.

The matter is set to be further discussed this week.