Still NO decision from RFL on promotion and relegation - but rule changes passed

RFL chairman Simon Johnson (SWPIX)RFL chairman Simon Johnson (SWPIX)
RFL chairman Simon Johnson (SWPIX)
A DECISION on whether promotion and relegation will occur in 2020 - and if the Championship and League 1 will resume - has been deferred yet again with the RFL Board now possibly not making a decision until as late as July 23.

Following a meeting of the RFL Board this afternoon, the introduction of a number of law changes - including the ‘six again’ rule and the suspension of scrums - were approved in readiness for Super League’s return on August 2.

However, despite months of uncertainty following the Covid pandemic, the governing body can still not decide whether a team will be relegated from - or promoted to - Super League during the truncated campaign.

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Such continued lack of decision-making is sure to bring more disdain from club owners, coaches and players alike but RFL chair Simon Johnson 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.

“That is why we have been keen to communicate and consult as often as possible – and that consultation has revealed a wide range of opinions.

“After our meeting today, 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.

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“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.”

London Broncos' Eddie Battye and James Cunningham look dejected at the end of the match at Wakefield Trinity last September which saw them relegated from Super League. (Pic Oskar Vierod/ Broncos' Eddie Battye and James Cunningham look dejected at the end of the match at Wakefield Trinity last September which saw them relegated from Super League. (Pic Oskar Vierod/
London Broncos' Eddie Battye and James Cunningham look dejected at the end of the match at Wakefield Trinity last September which saw them relegated from Super League. (Pic Oskar Vierod/

Rugby league shutdown in mid-March due to the pandemic and the majority of clubs are fearful for their futures in the ongoing financial climate.

Although Super League is returning, initially behind closed doors next month, such a move is not seen as desirable for many of the clubs at lower levels and they would agree with the campaign being null and void.

That said, for others, like Championship challengers Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions, they are keen for the season to resume especially if the chance of promotion to Super League is still on the table.

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An RFL statement read: “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.

“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.

“Therefore the situation will be reviewed at the Board updates on the next two Mondays (July 13 and 20), with a decision to be made at the latest by July 23 – both on the resumption of the Championship and League 1 season, and on promotion and relegation between the competitions.

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“That timeline also fits with a deadline for the five Championship and League 1 clubs who have qualified for the Sixth Round of the Coral Challenge Cup, to decide whether they feel it is feasible to continue in the competition.”

A number of rule alterations, recommended by June’s meeting of the Laws Committee all with a specific intent of protecting the welfare of players and mitigating risk, have also been introduced.

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. At Championship and League 1 level the removal of any restrictions will be monitored.

The Board supported the adjustment of the RFL’s Governing Body Endorsement Requirements following Brexit, meaning that from 1 January 2021, new players with EU passports (other than UK passport holders or those with an existing right to work in the UK) will have to obtain a GBE to be signed by clubs.

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This includes the ability to base an application on appearances for any IRL Member and removing the requirement for players moving from Catalans and Toulouse to have met the requirements when joining those clubs. These changes have been agreed with UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration).

The Board agreed that the RFL Reserves League will be suspended for 2021; however, clubs may arrange friendlies – the suspension will be lifted ahead of 2022.

The Academy Competition will be extended to Under-19s in 2021, to allow a more sustainable one-team structure below first team with the temporary suspension of Reserves - Academy will be realigned to Under-18s for 2022, with the resumption of the Reserves.

The Scholarship Competition will be extended to Under 17s in 2021 only.

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