By AARON BOWER and MATTHEW SHAW
Rugby League clubs are hoping that the RFL will make a decision on whether promotion and relegation in the professional game will apply this season as early as July 6 at the next RFL board meeting.
With Super League confirming it will restart its domestic season in the beginning of August, attention is already turning towards whether one side will, as is usually the case, be relegated from the top-flight to the Championship at the end of the 22-round season.
However, with Championship and League 1 clubs still some way from a collective agreement on whether they will restart at all – let alone the scheduling and formatting of any shortened season – there is growing uncertainty about what happens next.
The RFL board meeting next Monday is being earmarked as a crucial day for the decision on promotion and relegation, with most clubs wanting to know what is happening, both between Super League and the Championship, and between the Championship and League 1.
Super League clubs are wary of one side being relegated at the end of the season, given various factors such as Toronto potentially playing no games in Canada in 2020, and English clubs being forced to play their home games at alternative venues.
There is a growing mood for 2020 to be regarded as an exhibition season, with the possibility of trialling new rules such as the six-again set restart implemented in the NRL.
However, Championship clubs such as Leigh and Featherstone, both of whom want the lower-leagues to return this summer, are demanding some element of promotion, given the money they have spent on their squads this season.
One lower-league owner admitted to League Express: “We are running out of time after last week’s meeting failed to reach a proper conclusion. We have to decide quickly whether we get up and running again and what the season is going to look like.
RFL Chief Commercial Officer Mark Foster concedes that any possible decision on promotion and relegation will be a contentious one, regardless of whether both concepts are retained or abandoned.
“There are a lot of ambitious clubs in the Championship and League 1 that have invested and set their stalls out to win promotion this year,” Foster said.
“They want to know what the answer is, but like we’ve always said it’s an RFL board decision. One of the beauties is that it is independent and they’re able to look at everything and make the right decision for the whole of the sport.
“Monday’s meeting doesn’t have to create an answer, but that’s where the decision lies, with the RFL board. It’s part of the reason to survey the clubs. They want to be aware of the stakeholders views in making that decision.”