The fixture list for the revised Super League season will not be announced until at least the middle of next week.
Due to restart on Sunday August 2, wrangles over player pay cuts have caused a delay to confirming the full schedule, with reports suggesting only three clubs have so far agreed terms with players to return to training.
Besides the triple-header of outstanding matches – Hull KR v Toronto, St Helens v Catalans and Huddersfield v Leeds – which will restart the season, no other fixtures have been confirmed, not even the date of the 2020 Grand Final.
A full list was expected to be released last week, with at least the first month of action set to be played at three “neutral” venues behind closed doors.
A total of 15 rounds need to be scheduled, with seven rounds having taken place prior to lockdown – although only five clubs had managed to play in all seven, due to a variety of postponements before the coronavirus outbreak.
Clubs are hopeful that they may be able to return to play home games in front of limited crowd numbers by October, with suggestions that “big” fixtures would be held back until the latter part of the season.
Although the three venues haven’t been confirmed, it has been reported that Headingley is due to host the triple-header, while Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium is widely thought to be another of the host venues.
A total of five venues had been under consideration, with Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium, the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield and St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium the others on the list.
There is an understanding between clubs that playing behind closed doors means that home advantage is minimal, although if a club was to play at its home ground, they may be forced to use the away team dressing room as a compromise.
It was thought that multiple games would be played at each venue back-to-back, as per the triple header, though Catalans president Bernard Guasch threw a curveball in to that theory when he told the French press that the Dragons were to play a home game in Perpignan on August 8.
The French government have relaxed their restrictions, which had effectively shut down professional sport until September, while the removal of the UK’s quarantine requirements mean the Dragons won’t have to base themselves in England, like the NRL’s New Zealand Warriors have had to in Australia.
A national newspaper report on Thursday suggested that clubs could have legal grounds to challenge relegation, particularly in the case of Catalans and Toronto, who will be disadvantaged from not being able to play in their home country.
Relegation looks unlikely to happen anyway – with Super League reluctant to sacrifice any of their 12 clubs who have committed to the restart of the competition and the associated testing costs; while the possibility of the Championship restarting in 2020 looks remote, despite the RFL delaying their decision on it until July 23.
St Helens to resume 2020 Super League as title favourites
Editor’s column: The rugby league of the disillusioned
First players take COVID-19 tests ahead of Super League restart
Six of the best Super League transfers so far
St Helens land Manly forward Curtis Sironen
Leigh caretaker coach Kurt Haggerty provides update on his future