The 2021 Super League season to start two weeks later on March 25
Betfred Super League clubs have bowed to the inevitable by putting back the start date for the new season by a fortnight.
The season traditionally kicks off at the end of January but was put back by six weeks to March 11 after the 2020 season ran to the end of November and, following the latest lockdown and worsening Covid-19 data, the league has announced it will now start on March 25.
The league say the decision was taken following discussions with broadcasters Sky and in the hope that a later start will increase the prospects of starting the campaign in front of fans.
Super League say the season will still end with the Grand Final on October 9, a fortnight before the start of the World Cup, and talks will continue on whether to reduce the number of matches, with production of the fixture list also delayed.
The league’s fixtures working group must now decide whether to stick with the 27-round format, which would to add to the players’ workload by scheduling more midweek fixtures, or reduce the number of games.
That could put the Magic Weekend at Newcastle’s St James’ Park at the end of May under threat or, alternatively, clubs could decide to remove the four extra “loop” fixtures, even though it would mean reduced income.
Despite the later start, it still seems likely that matches will initially be played behind closed doors and in double or triple-headers at Covid-secure stadia.
Whatever formula is arrived at, fixtures are set to be backloaded in the hope that the more attractive matches can be played later in the season in front of big crowds.
All Super League clubs, with the exception of Catalans Dragons, have returned to training and are undertaking Covid-19 testing but some are still awaiting the arrival of overseas players.
Meanwhile, the Rugby Football League also postponed the fixtures announcement for the Championship and League 1 as well as the draw for the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup.
The cup is due to get under way for the second and third-tier clubs on the first weekend of March, with Super League sides entering in the fourth round on the weekend of April 10.