Green-light for major changes... but no decision on relegation

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Scrums will be suspended and the ‘six again’ rule will be introduced when Super League restarts next month.

The RFL board met this afternoon to give the changes the green-light, while also simplifying the rules around the overseas quota.

But no decision has been made on whether to have promotion and relegation at the end of this season. A call will now be made no later than July 23.

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An RFL statement said: “Following a survey of the 25 Betfred Championship and League 1 clubs that was conducted after their meeting last month to assess their current views, the board observed that for a majority of clubs in each competition, playing matches behind closed doors is impractical, given the costs and other logistical issues.

RFL chair Simon JohnsonRFL chair Simon Johnson
RFL chair Simon Johnson

“However the board also noted that a small majority of clubs at both Championship and League 1 level preferred to hold open the possibility of resuming the season given the changing situation regarding the cost of antigen testing and the possibility of playing in front of crowds – while a majority also expressed support for the possibility of a meaningful competition later in the autumn and winter if that was the best available option.

“The Board also have sympathy for the issues at Super League level, in terms of the integrity of their competition, and the need for clarity well ahead of the resumption of their 2020 season on August 2.”

That timeframe also fits with finalising plans for this year’s Challenge Cup.

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Of the eight round 6 ties, only three are all-Super League. The others involve five Super League drawn against five lower league opponents.

If the Championship and League 1 don’t resume, it’s thought the top-flight outfits may be given a bye into the quarter-finals.

Simon Johnson, the RFL chair, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented all sports with immense challenges. We continue to work through these challenges in rugby league, and our approach throughout has been to consider the interests of all our member clubs, and of the game as a whole. We are confirming some significant changes to the way the game will be played on the field when rugby league resumes next month – which we believe are important and necessary to prioritise the welfare of players, and the success of the season when it resumes.

“We recognise that further important decisions are necessary in terms of the tiers below Super League, and promotion and relegation – and that there is urgency in making these decisions, which is why we have set some firm deadlines to ensure clarity well before the resumption of the Betfred Super League season on August 2.”

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The board agreed to the simplification of the regulations regarding nationality and the limit on players who are not ‘federation trained’ by supporting the removal of the quota rule at all levels. This means that at Super League the only restriction will be that clubs may employ a maximum of seven non-federation trained players.

The board agreed that the RFL Reserves League will be suspended for 2021, with the academy lifted to Under-19s.