Uncertainty still prevails

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Monday 11th Jan 2021

When will the new season begin?

The question is worth asking, because the continued rise in the number of Covid cases is making it look increasingly difficult to guarantee the dates that have already been announced by Super League and the RFL.

The latter issued a statement recently suggesting that the new Championship season would begin on the weekend of 27/28 February.

But last week, after the Prime Minister announced the new national lockdown, the RFL issued a statement explaining that it had advised clubs in Betfred Championship and League 1 to pause their pre-season training programmes for the next two weeks “in recognition of the national crisis, and with more than seven weeks until the scheduled start of the 2021 season.”

The relevant legislation indicates that the lockdown could last until the end of March.

In that sense, only a fervent optimist would believe that the Championship could commence at the end of February, or that the Super League could begin on its scheduled date of 11 March.

The Super League clubs will hold a Zoom meeting this Friday, and there is a suggestion that they may put the season back by two weeks, to start on 25 March, giving the competition the chance to play during the Easter period.

Part of the new arrangement would be that the Super League clubs would forgo the Magic Weekend in Newcastle, which in any case is unlikely to be able to attract a sufficient number of supporters to justify financially.

Similarly the Championship clubs may decide to pull out of the Summer Bash, although the implications of doing that are more serious than for Super League.

The Summer Bash is the only occasion on which Championship clubs actually are broadcast by Sky Sports, so to miss out on that opportunity would be unwise and the clubs should take great care before thinking they could do without that exposure.

So all our competitions face making some difficult choices in the light of the current pandemic. Even though we now have the chance to vaccinate against it, it will be a long time before enough people have received the vaccine to justify crowds returning to matches.

We still face a long, hard road ahead.

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