Written by Callum Walker
Recent news has been interesting to say the least; with Toronto’s exit from Super League and the scrapping of promotion and relegation, the Rugby League fraternity has been inundated with topics for debate. Add into that the scrapping of the Championship and League 1 seasons and, well, it’s not exactly been the quietest time in the history of the sport.
But, with regards to the scrapping of the second and third tier’s seasons, the Rugby Football League (RFL) has had to act. There is no doubt that if the governing body gave the green light to continue or cancel the seasons, there would have been furore on either side of the argument.
For those clubs and fans wanting to continue with the Championship and League 1 seasons in their current format such as Featherstone and Barrow, the decision has rankled them. In limiting the opportunity to earn promotion to the Super League and Championship respectively, 2020 is effectively a write-off.
Players too have had to learn that the hard way, with second- and third-tier sides employing most of their stars on part-time wages. By cutting off the season, it is a wage lost. Bearing in mind that the majority of these stars have young families and mortgages, it has left many worrying about their short-term financial future.
Yet, that kind of opposition would be the same on the other side of the coin if the wishes of the above had been approved. The RFL conducted a survey from those clubs that make up the Championship and League 1, with an overwhelming majority voting against hosting matches behind closed doors in order to protect clubs from insolvency.
What other choice would there be then but to cancel the season? Yes, some of the lower league sides could host games with social distancing in place, but the government’s latest admission that crowds may be allowed into stadiums in October would come too late to salvage any kind of season without risking disrupting 2021.
With that in mind, the RFL has come up with what is an ingenious idea; that is, to invite Championship and League 1 clubs to play a competition in the autumn, with a theme of celebrating the 125th anniversary of Rugby League. A prize pot of £250,000 awaits the victor as some kind of compensation for the lack of the real target: promotion.
The sport has been and is facing a huge test; to get through the other side, being divided is not an option. That is why accepting the proposal put forward by the RFL will be the easiest way to manage the crisis and get back to some kind of normality in 2021.