Sheffield Eagles chairman Chris Noble unsure if lower divisions will restart in 2020
WHILE it appears increasingly likely Super League will be back in action by the middle of August, prospects for the lower divisions are less clear.
Some clubs outside the top-flight believe it will not be financially viable to restart the season, following the Covid-19 shutdown, if matches are played without a crowd.
Under a plan drawn up by Super League representatives, that competition could resume on August 16 with games played behind closed doors until the beginning of October.
To cut down on expenses, multiple matches are likely to be staged on the same day at one venue, but there are fears that may not be sustainable for lower division clubs which are more heavily reliant on income through ticket sales.
Sheffield Eagles chairman Chris Noble has admitted he is unsure if the Championship will return in 2020. In a message to fans, Noble warned: “The question on everyone’s lips is if or when will we be playing again?”
He stressed: “A great deal of work is being done to look at the feasibility of the Championship and League One returning.
“It remains to be seen if the 2020 season will be back and if it is, it will certainly be a different experience to the one we left behind in March.
“The Championship has a multitude of challenges, some of which are not faced by the other divisions.
“We have a mixture of part- and full-time teams and with that comes different trials and tribulations we must overcome and unique and varying business models across the league.
“Several teams have invested significantly for promotion and I fully understand and sympathise with those clubs. I certainly do not envy their predicament.”
Eagles’ players have been on furlough since March, but would have to come off the paid leave scheme to resume organised training.
“Government guidelines may change in the future, but as things stand we would have to carry out a considerable amount of work at a substantial cost to the club for both returning to training and then subsequently playing matches,” said Noble.
“We remain open to all scenarios and continue to engage with the RFL, working groups’ meetings and other discussions as they occur, but our stance will be led by ensuring player and staff welfare is fully covered and a viable, secure future will be met for the club.”
Noble confirmed Eagles are considering applying for a share of a £16m government loan issued to help rugby league through the Covid-19 crisis, but insisted: “Whilst it is hugely positive for the game it is still a loan and will need to be repaid so we must ensure it is beneficial for the club in the short, medium and long term.”
Coronavirus has halted construction of a new stadium at Olympic Legacy Park, but Noble said he is confident work will begin “as soon as possible”.
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