Super League green light due to clubs striking balance - Wakefield Trinity chief

Wakefield Trinity chief executive Michael Carter last night welcomed Super League’s own Project Restart and said it was the best balance possible to allow the sport to “bounce back” in 2021.

Brad Dwyer, Leeds Rhinos and Super League will return on August 2 ( Picture Bruce Rollinson)

Following yesterday’s meeting of the dozen clubs, it was agreed that a shortened season would resume on Sunday, August 2, with a live televised triple-header.

Hull KR face Toronto Wolfpack, St Helens tackle Catalans Dragons and Huddersfield Giants take on Leeds Rhinos at one venue behind closed doors, all three fixtures having earlier been postponed before the season was suspended on March 16.

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The campaign has been cut from 29 to 22 rounds and only the top-four – rather than top-five – will contest the play-offs with the Grand Final likely to take place in the final weekend of November.

A full round of Super League fixtures will take place the following weekend of August 8/9 with remaining games taking place at a “small number of neutral venues” until government directives allow otherwise.

Headingley is likely to be one with Huddersfield, St Helens, Warrington and Salford also hoping to secure a slot.

Super League hope to potentially have crowds back watching matches some time in September but, for now, yesterday’s news has been met by much relief.

It was agreed the 2021 season – the last of the current broadcast deal with Sky Sports and also leading into the home World Cup – would start later than its traditional slot of early February.

Super League will resume on August 2, the league has announced. (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

There had been talk of stretching this season into December or even January but Carter told The Yorkshire Post: “We think what we have is the best balance we could achieve.

“There’s so many factors. You have to look at how the players and clubs can cope, can we get back in front of crowds by the end of September, if so is there enough home games to satisfy season ticket holders and sponsors. It is such a fine balance.

“I liken it to a set of pulleys; if you end up pulling one too much, it affects so many more. Hopefully we’ve got it right and people will accept they might not be getting the 14 games they were promised as part of the season ticket but hopefully they’re going to end up with four months of pretty good Super League.”

Carter, who says the bulk of Trinity’s players aim to resume training on July 20 with a staggered return for the rest, explained why he felt this was the best solution.

Wakefield chairman Michael Carter. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“For me, it’s how do we get through 2020 so that we impinge on 2021 as little as possible as we need next year to be as close to normal as possible so we can bounce back,” he said.

“I know some clubs would have preferred an extra home game. We didn’t share that view.

“We were more of the mind we’d like to get this season wrapped up with as little consequence as we could give for next season. Hopefully we can get fans in the ground sooner rather than later and at the back of my mind we always have to be conscious we don’t want to flog the players too much as well.”

It is hoped the Challenge Cup can be completed but no details have yet emerged while, of course, it remains to be seen whether Old Trafford – long cemented in for a Grand Final on October 10 – will be available in late November.

Nevertheless, crucially, Super League has a restart plan in place.

The competition’s chief executive Robert Elstone was “delighted” and added: “We are in the final stages of confirming where the games will be played, and we continue to work closely with Sky Sports to deliver the best possible broadcast schedule for our fans.

“Above all we know fans want to get back into grounds to support their teams. We’ll continue to follow government advice and work alongside the RFL, clinical advisors and ground safety personnel to ensure when that time comes, Super League is ready to welcome back fans at the first opportunity.

“Whilst the recent government announcements underline increasing optimism, the pandemic remains unpredictable.

“Our final fixture schedule needs to respond to opportunities that will unfold over the coming weeks and accordingly, full details of fixtures, venues and season structure will be confirmed as they become known.”

Super League is “closely monitoring” government directives in France and Canada with Catalans and Toronto both involved.

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