Featherstone Rovers furious over RFL decision to cut 2020 Championship short

Furious Featherstone Rovers have launched a scathing attack on the Rugby Football League Board for cancelling the 2020 Betfred Championship season.

Featherstone Rovers invested heavily for the 2020 campaign on players including retaining 2019 Championship player of the year Dane Chisholm. Picture: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia.

That announcement was made on Monday night after months of uncertainty for both divisions below Super League.

The sport has been shut down since mid-March owing to coronavirus and, though Super League returns behind closed doors on August 2, Championship and League 1 clubs had been facing a waiting game.

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Promotion-chasing Featherstone were one of those who had hoped to resume and they were left “extremely disappointed” with the decision adding “we feel we, as a sport, have let down our supporters, sponsors, and partners.”

The RFL said ‘protecting the solvency of clubs’ informed their decision which followed the Government announcement last week identifying October as the earliest opportunity for the return of crowds to sport.

But, in a lengthy statement, Featherstone said it was “far from satisfied with the reasoning behind the (RFL) decision”.

It read: “Officials believe the RFL have cited a survey taken from clubs over a month ago as part of their decision. However, throughout this pandemic, the landscape has changed considerably each week and the sport has failed to adapt with it and has instead cancelled a promising season without exploring all opportunities. Following a 2019 Grand Final in Toronto, Rovers invested heavily into the playing squad and recruited experienced players such as Brett Ferres and Craig Hall, as well as retaining Championship player of the season Dane Chisholm.

“This recruitment process was made with the aim of going one step further in 2020 and gaining promotion to Super League in what would have been an exciting challenge with some fantastic contenders in this year’s Championship.

Featherstone Rovers invested heavily for the 2020 campaign on players including signing former England and Leeds Rhinos forward Brett Ferres. Picture: Chris Mangnall/SWpix.com.

“Rovers’ goal during these unprecedented times has always been to explore every avenue in trying to resume the season along with Leigh Centurions, who were also extremely vocal in resuming the season in the safest and most beneficial way possible.”

It continued; “Rovers are now due to lose in excess of £1.3million in revenue between February to November in 2020 with one of the main income streams removed for almost a year.

“Featherstone officials believe the decision is not in the best interests of the financial security of clubs or indeed the safety of players.

“But instead, the lack of desire from clubs to resume the season and therefore secure their place in the Championship without a match being played. Some clubs in the Championship and League One are becoming victims of their own ambitions and it is apparent now that they are being held back, making it increasingly difficult for new investors, sponsors, partners and supporters to join ambitious clubs.

Featherstone Rovers invested heavily for the 2020 campaign on players including signing former Hull KR back Craig Hall. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

“Super League clubs are making decisions that impact the whole game and it is based on self-interest.

“Supporters are becoming disillusioned with the game and this latest suppression is damming on the sport at all levels.”

Although Toronto have pulled out of the 2020 season, the RFL has ruled out relegation from Super League. It invited lower-league clubs to take part in an invitational tournament but there will be no promotion.

Additionally, the Featherstone statement read: “It is also confusing why a voluntary celebratory competition can be played, but a meaningful season that is key to so many clubs at this level cannot resume despite the latest developments on socially distanced crowd participation.”