Super League clubs target August restart

Super League clubs hope to resume their season in August and have set an ambitious target of playing in front of fans again as soon as October.

The British-based rugby league competition was suspended in March as part of the wider coronavirus lockdown but three plans have now been drafted by the 12 teams, paving the way for a restart.

It is understood each version concludes with a Grand Final - in November, December or January respectively - and with final standings based around 22, 24 or 28 matches depending on the model. The plans are due to be formally submitted for consideration by the Rugby Football League next week.

The proposed return date of August 16 is seen as crucial to minimise any rebate due to Sky, which holds broadcast rights through to the end of the 2021 campaign, but there is also a clear willingness to bring fans back as well as fixtures.

While both football and cricket are essentially working with behind-closed-doors scenarios for the forseeable future, there are signs Super League is entertaining a more optimistic timetable.

October 1 is the stated date for the earliest possible opening of the turnstiles, though as with the rest of the details that remains dependent on UK government guidance, health advice and the wider societal spread of Covid-19.

Given the average attendances at most Super League fixtures and the comparative size of the stadiums involved, social distancing measures could potentially be undertaken without substantially compromising attendances.

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone issued an open letter on Thursday evening, in which he underlined the importance of a live crowd.

"We are now at a stage where we have three advanced models, based around a season restart date of mid-August, differentiated largely on when we expect the season to end," he wrote.

"These plans will be refined over the short term as we learn lessons from the relaxation of social distancing, the return to work, the re-start of other sports and the general trend of virus spread and control."