The RFL have confirmed that the Reserves League has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
The decision has been made due to the heavy schedule clubs face once the sport returns to the field. With a backlog of fixtures to play, squad depth is set to be tested across all levels of the game with youngsters likely to be provided more first-team opportunities. With some clubs already struggling to raise numbers for their reserve grade sides, and existing players likely to be unavailable, it has been decided to shelf the season, though it is expected to return next season.
Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s Chief On-Field Officer, said: “We have had extensive discussions with clubs about how best to amend our schedules for the Reserves League, Academy Championship and Under-16s Scholarship in this unprecedented period, bearing in mind the three pillars of player welfare, competition integrity and financial sustainability.
“We regarded the revival of a Reserves League as an important step forward this year, the clubs were supportive of that, and the season had started well until the abrupt suspension of all Rugby League activity last month.
“We have to recognise that the priority for clubs whenever activity can resume will be completing the first team season, and that is why we have cancelled the Reserves League for 2020.
“But equally, clubs are aware that they have invested in the return of Reserves, and made commitments to players, so we will be encouraging them to be imaginative in finding ways to provide competitive rugby for squad players, by arranging friendly fixtures which could involve pooling players between clubs, or even playing Nines matches or festivals.
“We will also need to be flexible in terms of resuming the Academy Championship for Under-18s, and the Under-16s Scholarship programme, and we have already spoken to Heads of Youth about some possible changes to the schedule.
“Public health remains the priority for the RFL and the sport, but we are also determined to ensure the game is ready to resume in the strongest possible way whenever that is appropriate, and the talented young players in our clubs’ Academies and scholarship programmes will have a big part to play in our future.”