Super League to be back in August



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Super Rugby League England Headingley Stadium Image: Caddick Construction

The fixture schedule for resuming the 2020 season has been announced by the Super League, the top division of rugby league in England. Three consecutive games have been planned at Leeds’ Headingley Stadium and St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium – both in England.

Super League is the top-level professional rugby league club competition in the Northern Hemisphere. The league has 12 teams: Ten from England, one from France and one from Canada.

Initially, it will be closed door matches at neutral venues, with Headingley and the Totally Wicked Stadium to stage back-to-back events in a move to ensure greater control over the safety and well-being of players, staff and match officials.

On August 2, the season will resume with a triple-header at Headingley, from which point pay-television broadcaster Sky will cover 21 live matches over the course of 29 days. Hull KR will face Toronto Wolfpack in the first of the three matches, before St Helens plays Catalans and Huddersfield takes on Leeds.

Headingley will play host to all matches from August 2 before St Helens stages round nine over the weekend of August 15-16.

Once the season progresses, dates and venues towards the back end of the campaign will be reviewed, in tune with Government guidelines on allowing fans back into stadia. Super League said that the opportunity to play in front of home crowds has been “front of mind” in its fixture scheduling amid pecuniary constraints caused by COVID-19.

The play-offs, which will comprise four teams, are scheduled to take place in mid to late-November, with the Grand Final to be held at the end of the month.

By the end of next week, all Super League clubs are set to return to training, with coronavirus testing now fully up and running. Two major changes will be introduced during matches, with the ‘six-again’ rule to be brought in and matches to be restarted with a tap instead of scrums.

Remarked Super League Executive Chairman Robert Elstone, “We were really pleased to be able to confirm a restart date – but fans really want to know who their team is playing and when. It hasn’t been an easy process. We have needed the buy-in of our clubs and support from Sky Sports and we’re delighted all parties have pulled together to allow us to announce our fixtures and provide the focus for the remainder of the 2020 season.”

“It’s fantastic that all games in August will be live on Sky Sports. I’m also pleased to confirm that Sky Sports are supporting our efforts to explore other ways to bring as many games as possible into the homes of Super League fans.”

In June, Sky confirmed that it had struck a deal with the Rugby Football League (governing body for professional rugby league in England) over Super League clubs’ television revenues for the 2020 season, which was put on hold in mid-March due to global coronavirus outbreak.

As per the deal, Sky will reportedly not reduce payments for the 2020 season, but will instead lower fees for 2021. Terms of the agreement have not been revealed but media reports stated that each club – barring Toronto Wolfpack, which does not receive any broadcast income from the Sky deal – will receive around £280,000 (€308,000/$352,000) less in 2021.

Toronto Wolfpack, which is the first North American team to play in the UK-based Super League, confirmed earlier this week that it would not play any home games at Lamport Stadium in Toronto, Canada, when the season resumes. Toronto’s debut season in the competition had almost looked like a non-starter over visa issues relating to COVID-19 but its place has now been confirmed.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed on July 17 that the Challenge Cup will resume at the sixth-round stage on August 22, with the final to be held at Wembley Stadium (UK) on October 17. Earlier, the final was due to take place this weekend.

The Challenge Cup is a knockout rugby league cup competition organized by the Rugby Football League, held annually since 1896, with the exception of 1915-1919 and 1939-1940, due to World War I and World War II, respectively. It involves amateur, semi-professional and professional clubs.

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