The RFL will continue to work with those Betfred Championship and League 1 clubs who are keen to return to action earlier than the scheduled start of the 2021 season after an agreement that it is not feasible to arrange a one-off competition this autumn.
Initial discussions have already been held about the possibility of amending the format of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup to allow for a number of rounds of regional group fixtures being played over the winter.
This could include playing rounds on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day before reverting to a short knockout format next spring leading to the Wembley Final on the day of the Coral Challenge Cup Final – which was central to the creation of the competition in 2019.
Mark Foster, the RFL’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Like everyone we want to see a return of our sport at this level. But in these uniquely challenging circumstances it is important that we work with the clubs to find the best solutions.
“As we have since March, we need to be flexible and creative. We hope the coming months will include the return of crowds to sporting events – something that is so crucial at this level.
“Some clubs have already expressed enthusiasm for the option of an earlier start to the 2021 season, and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup provides us with a possible opportunity to secure that.
“There is also the possibility of using the traditional sporting dates of Boxing Day and New Year’s Day to come back with a bang – although it is important we recognise there are still substantial challenges ahead as we work through the detailed requirements for the return of our sport outside Super League.
“Moving the majority of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup to earlier in the season should also mean fewer midweek games in the 2021 schedule, which would be another potential advantage. With the Super League clubs agreeing to contribute to a prize money fund for this competition it definitely seems like an opportunity that we should continue to explore.
“Those discussions will continue over the coming weeks, as we all continue to work towards bringing Rugby League back for players and supporters to enjoy – although given the unpredictability of various aspects of the current situation, we are able to assess developments and the views of all clubs before making any firm commitments.”
By Joshua Chapman