Revealed – Championship clubs set for March restart with reduced number of fixtures

The Championship season is set to undergo significant rehauls as both competitions prepare for a delayed restart this year.

TotalRL understands clubs in both competitions have received papers from the RFL outlining three different structure proposals for the upcoming year.

It’s believed that a proposal to reduce the Championship season to a 22 round competition will be implemented, which would see teams return to the field in the Challenge Cup on the weekend of March 20th/21st.

However, League 1 clubs may now have to wait until May to return to the field.

The revised fixture schedule for the Championship would see every team play each other once and then play nine further games that will be classed as ‘loop fixtures’, with those games to be determined based on league positions in 2019.

The schedule also includes the Summer Bash and the structure of the Championship is the same in both the second and third options tabled. The alternative is to implement the current 27-round schedule, though that is now deemed to be an unrealistic option by many clubs.

Changes to the structure of League 1 itself are smaller, with all ten teams set to play each other as was previously planned.

But it is the start date of the third tier, and their involvement in the Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup, that are the significant changes to clubs at that level.

One proposal would see League 1 clubs return to action on the third weekend of March and participate in the Challenge Cup.
However, a second proposal would see their league campaign start May 8th/9th, with only Championship clubs entering the Challenge Cup.

It’s thought that League 1 clubs could be given the option to opt-in to the competition to play alongside the 13 Championship clubs entering – Toulouse Olympique will not feature. However, that could see them return to training in preparation for one Challenge Cup game then face a seven-week wait for another match. Participation in the Challenge Cup would subsequently mean returning to training and not being able to utilise the furlough scheme.

As for the 1895 Cup, the four teams who reach the Challenge Cup last 16, where they will join the 12 Super League clubs, will make up the semi-finalists of the competition.

It’s expected that clubs will be told they need to ramp up safety requirements in light of the current pandemic, with testing now to take place before every training session. Additionally, no training can take place indoors other than to use a gym for weight sessions.

Protocols will be relaxed as restrictions ease across the country, similar to the government’s tiered system.

A meeting of clubs takes place tonight at 5 PM where the options will be discussed, while Toulouse Olympique’s involvement will also be talked over after the French government recently told sporting clubs not to travel to England.