Super League’s fixture constraint

Upfront: The League Express Opinion – Mon 25th Jan 2021

The Super League season is now scheduled to begin on 25 March, after originally being scheduled to start two weeks earlier.

The latter date is when the NRL season is due to begin, so we will be in the unusual position this year of the season down under getting under way before the start of the Super League season.

The question facing Super League now is how many fixtures to schedule for the new season.

The biggest constraint is the World Cup, which is due to start with England playing Samoa on 23rd October at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

At this stage, we have to assume that the World Cup will be able to be played as intended this year, and that by then the vast majority of the country will have been vaccinated against the Covid virus.

That means that, unlike in 2020, the Super League Grand Final can’t be put back. It is scheduled for the 9th of October and that is therefore the date on which the Super League season has to be wrapped up.

Given that there will be a three-week play-off period, it means that the Super League regular season will have to end on Sunday 19th September.

That means there will be 26 weeks in the regular season, but four of those weeks will be devoted to the Challenge Cup and on one weekend, the last in June, there will presumably be no fixtures because England will be taking on the Exiles in a vital game for the national side’s World Cup preparation.

That means there will only be 21 weekends available for Super League fixtures.

Let’s assume that the fixtures can be double up over one weekend (and the obvious one would be the August Bank Holiday, rather than Easter, because by August we might have crowds back in our stadiums), then it looks as though there is virtually no scope for a Magic Weekend nor for any loop fixtures. Super League will just about be able to squeeze 22 fixtures into the time available, with each club having played every other club home and away.

To try to play more would surely be ridiculous.

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