RFL hoping for April return of crowds

The RFL has begun modelling fixture options for 2021 for the return of the Championship and League 1 competitions, and the 1895 Cup.

Although Government advice is currently that crowds will not be permitted until April, the clubs would like to return well before that and they are keen to leave all options open.

The first week of March, or possibly earlier, has been identified as a possible target date following an informal survey of clubs, and there will be further discussion at a Championship and League 1 forum next month.

The RFL is working closely with clubs to ensure that they can return initially to train, and in due course play matches, in accordance with government guidance and RFL protocols.

The RFL is also liaising with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about a roadmap for an earlier return to socially distanced and limited crowds. It has forwarded a proposal for this to the DCMS. Individual clubs are also having similar dialogue with their local MPs and local authorities.

Simon Johnson, the RFL Chair, said: “At the moment, we are led to believe crowds will not return until April. But as we have seen, these things can change – and with the Our League app, we do have the ability to provide coverage of matches direct to supporters even when crowds are not permitted in the grounds.

“It is difficult to come up with firm fixture plans given that ongoing uncertainty, but we want to give our clubs and supporters an idea of what might be possible in 2021.

“We of course face challenges, but the mood at the recent meeting was one of defiance and also excitement at the prospect of their 2021 return. Our role to work with the clubs and ensure that these competitions are rolled out as quickly as is feasible and we are well aware of activity that is already being planned.

‘The RFL remains at the forefront of demonstrating to DCMS and health partners that sports are well prepared for the introduction of socially distanced crowds in well managed outdoor environments, now that indoor arts and cultural events are underway.”

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